Carnival of Venice 2008, Venezia

Carnival of Venice 2008 kicks off this Friday.  This 10-day annual event organized by the Commune di Venezia brings fun, Piazza San Marco, Veniceentertainment and merriment to the city in winter.   Masked parties, street performances and parades are held all over the city.  Piazza San Marco is the centre stage of Carnival, although other events take place throughout the city. People dressed in all types of costumes and masks happily invade streets and squares.

Venetian masks, VeniceThe origin of Carnival dates back to the 12th century when the Republic defeated Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia in 1162.  To commemorate the victory, a tradition of slaughtering a bull and 12 pigs began in the Piazza San Marco around Shrove Tuesday. The first document mentioning the use of masks was dated 1268. Masks are a great way to temporarily override the social order.  If you’re not able to identify the wearer of the mask, then you cannot determine his social status.

Venetian masks, San Polo, VeniceCarnival was at its prime in the eighteenth century when Venice became a centre for conspicuous consumption of pleasure . Rich young nobles doing the European “Grand Tour” were keen to grasp at these pleasures as well.  Carnival was banned in the 1930s when Mussolini took over.  It was not until 1979 when a group of Venetians and lovers of Venice decided to revive the tradition. The image of the masked reveller very quickly became a worldwide icon of Carnival CostumesVenice in winter.

Everytime we’re at the Sydney Opera House Shop, I salivate at the few beautiful masks that they have for sale, but the prices are as scarey as the sinister characters that may be hiding behind them.  Next time we’re in Venice, a mask is definitely on the shopping list. 


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