What is the Carnival of Venice?

Mask wearing is an integral part of the Carnival of Venice.
Mask wearing is an integral part of the Carnival of Venice.

Festival History

The Carnival of Venice is a great tradition in the city of Venice. It occurs two weeks before the lent period and ends on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The festival began as a celebration of the victory of “Serenissima Repubblica” against “Ulrico di Treven” who was the Patriarch of Aquileia. It became an official celebration in the 14th and 15th centuries. The King of Austria outlawed the festival in 1797, but it was reintroduced years later. However, it was only until 1926 that the Carnival of Venice was declared a public celebration in Italy. Today, the festival is highly-reputed and draws more than three million tourists to the city of Venice yearly. In fact, it can be easily concluded that the Carnival of Venice is a highlight of the year in Venice.

Festival Purpose

The purpose of the festival is merry making and having fun. In addition, it enhances healthy interactions between individuals and the society at large. During the Carnival of Venice festival people engage in activities such as masquerade of balls, candle-lit parade of boats, street performances, and concerts. Street singers, jugglers, acrobats, and other artists also entertain guests with song and dance. The Carnival of Venice is a magical experience which turns Venice into a cocktail of fun and parties. Spirits are high as people prepare to welcome the end of the lent period which is highly restrictive.

The Significance of Masks and Costumes

The wearing of masks is probably the most common of all activities during the Carnival of Venice Festival. Everyone who attends the festival wears a mask to ensure they remain anonymous. Anonymity is important because it eliminates any types of barriers such as those that relate to age, gender, and religion. The society at the time of the origin of the Carnival of Venice was made of social classes such as the common people and nobility. As such there was limited interaction amongst the people. Consequently, hiding identities made it possible for people to freely interact during the festival.

It should be noted that there are rules that accompany mask wearing. One of them is that men are not allowed to dress themselves as women and vice versa. A second rule is that no costume should have any vulgar disguises. Furthermore, the masks are only meant to be worn during the carnival and not any other time of the year. These masks are made of papier-mâché, gesso, feathers, and gems. The masks which are often used during the festival include moretta, pantalone, colombina, and bauta among others. Every year the event organizers come up with a theme for the masks and costumes to be worn during the festival. There is also a contest for “the most beautiful mask” which is adjudicated by a team of international fashion designers. Some of the winners of the contest in the past have been Le stelle dell'amore which was created by Horst Raack and Alla Ricerca del Tempo Perduto which was Anna Marconi’s creation.


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