Sometimes I think that Mrs. Phred has the luck of the Irish in visiting foreign places just during major celebrations and events.
Carnevale means "farewell to meat" and arises from the somewhat debauched masked fertility celebrations preceding Lent. The tradition appears to be an answer to Tampa's Gasparilla.
I talked to Mrs. Phred on DSL this morning. She says the Carneval lasts a couple of weeks. People dress up when they please. Some come from out of town. That's so Italian. What wonderful freedoms they take. I'm not sure I've ever seen two Italian toilets that flushed exactly the same way. What lovely people.
Venice Carnival masks fall into several categories:
- Commedia dell'Arte masks are based on traditional characters like Harlequin and Pierrot.
- Fantasy masks are figments of the maskmaker's imagination, although they may be inspired by historical designs.
- Traditional Venetian masks such as the white volto half-mask with nose cover and its variant, the "plague doctor's" mask with its phallic beak. (According to tradition, the beak was intended to protect the wearer from being infected by the plague.
Carneval was an excuse to mingle and, in some cases, to trade sexual favors without fear of recognition or retribution.
Carnevale almost disappeared when Napoleon's troops brought an end to the Venetian Republic in 1797. In 1979, the tradition began a comeback.