How much do you know about the history of Italian Carnival?

The history of Italian Carnival is really interesting: this festivity in Italy dates back to the Romans, who used to celebrate pagan rituals in honour of Saturn and to go down the streets singing and praising him.

During the celebrations, people could mix all together and forget all the social rules in place: dressing up and putting masks on their face, they were all the same, without any difference between aristocrats and plebeians.

The idea was to flatten any gaps, change the reality and pretend to be someone completely different, spend time joking and enjoying life. Since people were allowed to party really hard, wearing a mask was also a way to break the rules without being recognised!

The Christianity tried to moderate some of the excessive Roman festivities and that’s when the modern Carnival was born: the name comes from the Latin “carnem levare”, which means “to give up meat”.

It refers to the fact that Mardi Gras, the last day of Carnival, is also the last day when people can eat meat before the Lent, starting the day after. Therefore people had to finish all the meat they had before the strict rules of the following period.

find out more about the history of Italian Carnival

Where do traditional masks come from?

The popular Italian Carnival masks were introduced in the Middle Ages with the aim of cheering people up and make them laugh through funny jokes. Each mask represents a human vice or virtue and comes from a specific Italian region.

During the 17th century the Carnival is linked to the Commedia dell’Arte (Comedy of Art), a theatrical show where the protagonists were dressed up and used to wear the mask of specific characters. So, for example, Arlecchino was the servant, Pantalone the master, Pulcinella the swindler and so on.

Have you ever celebrated Carnival? Have a look at this page to learn more!


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