Brief History of 'Il Carnivale'

"TRAVELS and TRAVELERS"

The Carnival of Venice 2001, with shows, parties, masquerades Balls and its unique enchantment of the timeless feeling, will celebrate the idea, the dream and the glamorous atmosphere of the Travel.

Carnevale comes 40 days before Easter, in the depths of winter. Unlike Halloween, which started out as a children's holiday and has only recently been co-opted by adults, Carnevale has always been a time of excitement and merriment for all, a last fling before Ash Wednesday and the rigors of Lent. Hence the cry that accompanies the pranks, A Carnevale Ogni Scherzo Vale! (All's fair at Carnival). While children dress up in simple costumes, throw confetti at each other, and generally raise a ruckus, adults don sumptuous costumes and go out on the town.

Venice has a spectral air to it in the winter, with the mists rising up from the canals to shroud the buildings; the thousands of people who arrive from the four corners of the globe, dressed in spectacular costumes, make it feel like a dream world. It's a unique, mesmerizing, stirring, and ultimately dazzling experience. Though Carnevale falls on a set date (it's also known as Mardigras) the activities begin a couple of weeks before, with the flight of the dove in Piazza San Marco. Over the two subsequent weekends there will be a steady stream of parties, some official, organized by the City, and others private. If you strike up a friendship with some Venetians or dress fancifully, you may be invited. in the past even beggars crashed the nobles' parties. Of course the big event is Carnevale. In the past, the guilds of the Smiths and the Butchers' would slaughter and cook a bull for the multitudes, while an acrobat would slide down a wire from the Campanile to the Dodge's Palace to present him with a bouquet of flowers, after which there would be a ball.

That was past; Venice stopped celebrating Carnevale after the fall of the Republic, and the festival was revived in 1979, in part to draw tourists during the winter. Though some consider this is the basest of motives for organizing a festival, the city has done an extremely good job of it, and the atmosphere has an ethereal timelessness to it that's unique and should be experienced at least once.

Carnevale isn't just a Venetian tradition; similar festivities occur throughout much of the Roman Catholic world, including other cities in Italy. The term "carnevale" comes from the Latin for "farewell to meat" and suggests a good-bye party for the steaks and stews that Catholics traditionally gave up during the weeks of fasting before Easter. The masquerade aspect of Carnival is even older: the Romans celebrated winter with a fertility festival where masks were worn by citizens and slaves alike.

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