Let’s find out the origins of Carnival, why and where it is celebrated, and what the traditions associated with this particular time of the year are.
Carnival is famous in Italy and around the world for the possibility of dressing up for a day by transforming yourself into a character from tradition, history, or fantasy, taken from literature, a film or a TV series but also representing a parody of what happens in daily life.
We know that Carnival is a very fun party, especially for children, but when it comes to honoring local traditions, even adults don’t hold back and are ready to dress up and celebrate.
- Carnival, meaning
- Carnival, history, and origins
- Carnival, traditions
- Regional and traditional Carnival costumes and masks
- DIY carnival costumes
- Carnival, typical sweets
- Carnival dessert recipes
- Carnival, Roman rite
- Carnival, Ambrosian rite
- Famous carnivals in Italy
Maybe you didn’t know that the word Carnival comes from the Latin ‘carnem levare’ and means ‘eliminate meat’. In fact, Carnival is part of the Catholic tradition as a moment of celebration that precedes Lent, a period of fasting and abstinence in anticipation of Easter where especially in the past people avoided eating meat.
Carnival, history, and origins
Carnival today is part of the Catholic tradition but its origins go much further back in time. In fact, the celebrations for the Carnival recall very ancient festivities such as the Roman Saturnalia or the Greek Dionysian.
In the past, the meaning of Carnival recalled the ‘upside down world’ where, at least for a short time, the value of social hierarchies was abandoned and one indulged in a joke.
From a historical point of view, Carnival is considered a period of celebration and renewal. According to the calendar of ancient Rome, the period we dedicate today to Carnival could coincide with the end or the beginning of the year.
What is most striking about the origins of Carnival concerns the meaning it had in the past as the overturning of the social order in which the servant could become the master, at least symbolically and vice versa.
Keep in mind that the history of celebrating Carnival in Italy is very ancient. We speak of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as centuries for which we already have evidence of the Carnival festival in some Italian cities.
As for the Carnival of Venice, known all over the world today, its masked characters are present in various eighteenth-century paintings by Canaletto, and Francesco Guardi and in the interiors of Pietro Longhi.
According to the Catholic tradition, Carnival is the moment that precedes the beginning of Lent, a period that must be dedicated to reflection and rapprochement with the sacred aspects of life in anticipation of Easter.
In the secular sphere, the celebrations and traditions for Carnival call for fun, for the possibility of living a few days in joy.
- Masquerade parades
- Masquerade parties
- Allegorical floats
- Theatrical performances
- Magic shows
- Music shows
- Carnival parties for children
- Carnival jokes
Regional and traditional Carnival costumes and masks
The Italian Carnival stands out for its regional and traditional masks, each with its own amusing and immediately recognizable characteristics, from Arlecchino to Pulcinella to name two of the most famous characters.
- Abruzzo – Frappiglia
- Basilicata – Rumit
- Calabria – Giangurgolo
- Campania – Pulcinella
- Emilia Romagna – Doctor Balanzone
- Friuli Venezia Giulia – Babaci, Kukaci, Pust
- Lazio – Rugantino
- Liguria – Captain Spaventa
- Lombardy – Meneghino
- Marches – Musciolino, Papagnoco, Burlandoto
- Molise – Three goblins or Three monks
- Piedmont – Gianduia
- Apulia – Farinella
- Sardegna – Mamuthones
- Sicily – Peppe Nappa
- Tuscany – Stenterello and Burlamacco
- Trentino Alto Adige – Matoci, Schnappviechern
- Umbria – Bartoccio
- Valle d’Aosta – Le Landzette
- Veneto – Arlecchino, Pantalone, Colombina, Rosaura and Brighella
DIY carnival costumes
For those who enjoy making Carnival costumes by sewing them by hand and for those who want to save money, here are many ideas for creating DIY Carnival costumes for adults and children.
- CARNIVAL: HOW TO MAKE A SNAIL COSTUME FOR KIDS WITH WRAPPING PAPER
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- CARNIVAL: 7 FREE KNITTED AND CROCHETED CARNIVAL COSTUME PATTERNS FOR KIDS
- CARNIVAL: 10 DIY WIGS
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- CARNIVAL: CONFETTI AND DIY MASKS
Carnival, typical sweets
Each region and numerous cities in Italy have its own typical and traditional desserts to prepare for the Carnival. Among the most famous sweets, we find chiacchiere , also known as frappe or budgie.
Here are some traditional Carnival sweets from our country.
- Small talk, frappe, or lies
- Carnival pancakes
- Pancakes with apples
- Pancakes with raisins
- Carnival donuts
- Carnival donuts
- Sweet ravioli
- Carnival confetti
- Chocolate blood sausage
- Carnival Tortelli
Carnival dessert recipes
Here are some recipes from which you can take inspiration to prepare your Carnival desserts in the traditional, vegan, or gluten-free version.
- CARNIVAL DESSERTS: 7 VEGAN RECIPES
- CARNIVAL DESSERTS: THE VEGAN RECIPE OF CHIACCHIERE, CASTAGNOLE, AND SANGUINARIA
- CHIACCHIERE OR FRAPPE: 10 TRADITIONAL, VEGAN, AND GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES
- CASTAGNOLE: 10 RECIPES TO PREPARE CARNIVAL FRITTERS
- BAKED TALK: THE ORIGINAL RECIPE AND 10 VARIATIONS
- CARNIVAL DESSERTS: APPLE FRITTERS WITH SOURDOUGH
- 10 TYPES OF SWEET HOMEMADE DONUTS
- CARNIVAL FRITTERS: THE TRADITIONAL RECIPE OF TORTELLI WITH RAISINS
Carnival, Roman rite
According to the Roman rite, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and the Carnival celebrations culminate and end on Shrove Tuesday (the last day before the beginning of Lent).
Carnival, Ambrosian rite
In the Ambrosian rite – which is observed in the diocese of Milan and in some nearby dioceses – the main day for the celebration of Carnival is shifted to Shrove Saturday, four days after Shrove Tuesday of the Roman rite. Lent in the Ambrosian rite does not begin on Wednesday but on Sunday immediately after the Saturday of the Carnival.
Famous carnivals in Italy
The appointments with the Carnival in Italy are really numerous and are repeated every year as a tradition in the major cities and as local events in the various provincial towns. Some Italian Carnivals are truly spectacular, they are now historic celebrations and are famous all over the world.
Every year they attract visitors from both Italy and abroad, always ready to admire the floats and costumes with all the novelties that are proposed year after year to renew the Carnival celebrations.
Read also: 10 MOST CHARACTERISTIC CARNIVALS IN ITALY, FROM VENICE TO VIAREGGIO
Here are some of the most famous Carnivals in Italy.
- Carnival of Venice
- Viareggio Carnival
- Carnival of Ivrea
- Carnival of Ascoli
- Carnival of Satriano
- Carnival of Acqualagna
- Carnival of Putignano
- Carnival of Mamoiada
- Carnival of Acireale
- Cento Carnival
- Carnival of Sciacca
- Carnival of Fano
- Carnival of Bagolino
- Carnival of Bergamo
- Carnival of Castrovillari
- Ronciglione Carnival
- Ambrosian Carnival in Milan
What are the Carnival celebrations typical of your city ?
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