Surfing on the web trying to find an inspiration for my article I came across the meaning of the word carnival and I realized I didn’t know it although it is my surname!
This is what I found out. It always happens, while explaining phenomena and concepts, to find at least two possible and well-founded explanations or meanings. On the word carnival I found two origin theories. According to the first one, mostly followed in Romance language countries, the word carnival comes from the Latin carnem levare (do not eat meat) in accordance with the traditional use to do not eat meat during the Lent (the forty days before Easter). According to the second one the word descends from Carrus Navalis, an ancient vessel that set sail into the North Sea at the beginning of the spring. The carnival traditions, however, likely reach back to pre-Christian times. In the Roman period they were called Saturnalia and only with the Christian coming the name was changed into Carnival. Nonetheless the aim and the spirit of Carnival have never changed in the course of time. Thousand of years ago as well as today the carnival celebrations offer the opportunity to completely change the hierarchy of the society, to confuse the role of the classes, to hide behind a mask and to become for a while a totally different person.
Italian carnival, especially in the smaller towns and Venice, is famous for celebrations such as parades, costume balls and artistic outputs like masks and floats. The top three carnival celebrations are: the Carnival of Ivrea, the Carnival of Viareggio and for sure the Carnival of Venice.
Carnival of Ivrea
Ivrea is a small town, north from Turin mostly known for its Battle of the Oranges during the carnival celebrations. During the carnival the citizens and the tourists split in teams and shoot oranges against other teams on the streets to remember a battle of the local population for freedom.
Carnival of Viareggio
The Carnival of Viareggio is very famous in Italy and Europe because of one month night and day celebrations, floats, parades, district celebrations, papier-mâché school and masks (among them the most famous is Burlamacco, which became the symbol of the Viareggio Carnival) and for the “Citadel” (Carnival town), which was inaugurated in 2001.
Carnival of Venice
Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival. Masks create a suggestive atmosphere in the Italian city and many tourists from all over the world wish to be in Venice at least once during the Carnival celebrations. The most famous mask is the so called bauta, a white mask worn with a black three-cornered hat and mantle. The bauta, which is now a traditional costume, was used in the past for hiding the wearer’s identity and social status for a variety of purposes, some of them criminal (for that reason wearing masks was also forbidden in some periods), others just personal, such as romantic courting.
“Chi vuol esser lieto sia di domani non c’è certezza” (if you want to be happy, do it, we can’t know anything about the future), wrote Lorenzo il Magnifico in his Canti Carnevaleschi (Carnival Poems). During the carnival weeks we have been doing right that for many centuries, the carnival celebrations represent a break from the ordinary life and a jump at the opportunity to do a rewrite of the known world, in which the joker becomes the king.