Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February is Carnival Time in Venice!

How appropriate that February, being the month of love, is also officially the month for the Venetian Carnival. This wonderful festivity dates as far back as the tenth century in Venice when the Doge Vitale Faliero ruled. The tradition became an annual celebration when Doge Vitale Michieli II won the battle against the Friulans for Grado, in 1162. Though, it was only in 1296 that the Senate of Venice declared it an official holiday that lasted six weeks, beginning December 26th; with its end marking the beginning of Lent.

Carnival was a time where festivities abounded throughout the cities of Venice but, mostly concentrated in the heart of the Republic and its Piazza; notably, San Marco’s Square. People staged plays and displayed their arts and games involving historical events. Bridges were even used for staging historical fights and reenactments. They danced and feasted and organized all sorts of entertainment. The highlight of these festivities was particularly marked by the prominent custom of wearing masks and disguises. This gave people from different social classes the opportunity to mingle with members of the aristocracy, inconspicuously.

Social differences were forgotten during this time when an illusion to help diminish social tensions was graciously permitted by the upper classes. Alas, along with the excitement of masked entertainment, came an abundance of promiscuity where limitless boundaries and decadent activities prevailed. An attitude of ‘anything goes’ was pretty much the mind-set of the times.

In the 18th century, the Venetian Carnival was the ‘in’ attraction for all of Europe. People were attracted to this city of pleasure and enticements. The public gambling houses were extremely popular, especially the Ridotto at St. Moise, where people felt free to gamble without being recognized by their creditors (masked for profit as well as for pleasure…hmm).

The abolition of the Venetian Carnival took place when the Serene Republic of Venice fell to France. It was Napoleon who, in 1797 declared that this most vibrant of Venetian tradition, come to an end. Even if the Carnival was reinstated shortly after Napoleon’s defeat by the Austrians, who took over in 1814, the event was never as exuberant as it once was. Christian Authorities banned and monitored many of the activities to bring back a sense of decency to Venice. Costumed balls and social parties continued to flourish, but were no longer publicized throughout Europe. Finally, after another ban, this time from Mussolini, a group of enthusiasts brought the Carnival back once and for all in 1979, to be celebrated annually by locals and tourists alike.

This year, the Venetian Carnival runs from February 13th to the 24th with 24 hour festivities, plays, parades and other spectacular events to evoke memories of a historical time in the beautiful city of Venice.

Stay tuned for more posts on Venetian Carnival:

- Masks
- The Theatre and Stocking Groups
- Traditional Foods

B/W images- Source:


May said...

Venice really is something, isn't it? So different from any other city.

Lucy said...

Yes, I tend to think so too. Thanks, Hummingbird.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful article Josephine! I really love all of the masquerade masks that you have displayed. I work for and they have alot of masquerade masks and feather masks if you would like more images for decorating your site... just let me know!

Lucy said...

Hello and thank you for visiting! I'm glad you enjoyed my post and the masks. I will be visiting you soon, thank you for your offer;-)

Anonymous said...

So this year is the 30th anniversary of the return of Carnival... same year I was born. I'll be 30 in June!

Lucy said...

Yes, when you think of's only 30 years old! Maybe you ought to look into getting yourself a mask for the occasion;-)

Darlene said...

Great post! I bet it would be fun to attend. And I love your blog. Thanks for popping by mine and introducing me to yours. I hope you'll visit mine often---I'll surely be back to yours!

Lucy said...

Hi Dar! Your blog is so interesting- I'll be by for sure! Thanks for visiting;-)

Passages to the Past said...

If I had a travel machine this would be at the top of my list to visit and experience. I love the pictures!

Queenie Jeannie said...

I live just outside of Venice and it's so exciting right now!!!