The Carnevale is a magical time of revelry, especially in the enchanting setting of Venice.
A period of time in the liturgical calendar between Epiphany and Lent, its name probably comes from the Latin “carnem levare” (not eating meat).
This whimsical festival probably dates back to the traditional rites of the winter season. The use of masks was meant to ward off evil spirits. The masks temporary turned men into animals, conferring them the sacred powers of spirit animals.
It is also assumed that the sexual liberty in use during the mardi gras celebrations, is related to fertility rites, whilst the custom of burning a puppet recalls the early sacrifices.
The ancient Romans indulged in festivities similar to the modern mardi gras during the “Saturnalia” festivals, which were dedicated to the god Saturn and began on December 17. The festivals were inaugurated in Rome, with a solemn sacrifice, followed by a generous public banquet. Celebrations of various kinds followed, often excessive. During the Saturnalia everything was permitted, the exchange of roles, in particular, for example wearing the clothes of others, or slaves served by freemen.
With the advent of Christianity, the carnevale continued to be celebrated but lost its magic and ritualistic aspect.
During the Middle Ages, the clergy tolerated folk festivals, even the most coarse, such as the Feast of Fools, during which donkeys competed.
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, among the most popular entertainment were masked balls.
Later on, the Romantics showed a great interest in the popular demonstrations, but at the time these amusements were scaled down and had lost their luster.
In Italy, the carnevale has been celebrated for centuries and the tradition continues today. Venice, Viareggio, Foiano della Chiana all celebrate with lavish extravaganza every year.