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Beverlyheels StyleFestivals: The Carnival of Venice

Festivals: The Carnival of Venice

Posted on Thu, Nov 15th, 2018

The Carnival of Venice, or Carnevele di Venezia, is an annual festival held in Venice, Italy. It takes place during the days leading up to Lent. It ends with Lent on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday. This festival, known for its elaborate masks, began as celebration of the victory of the Venice Republic against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven, in 1162. People celebrated it by gathering in San Marco Square and dancing. It is said that this festival became official during the Renaissance.

Under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and later Emperor of Austria, Francis II, this festival was outlawed entirely in 1797, and the use of masks became forbidden. But it returned in 1979, when the modern Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of its efforts. Masks were back in a big way again and since then about three million visitors come to Venice every year for this festival. A very important event in this festival is the “la maschera piu Bella (most beautiful mask) which is judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.

Traditionally, people were allowed to wear masks between the festival of Santo Stefano (December 26) and the end of carnival season at midnight of Shrove Tuesday. Originally, masks were simple in design, and often had a symbolic and practical function. During the Carnival, the sumptuary laws were suspended and people could dress as they liked despite their profession and social class.

There are various types of masks. The Bauta mask is a standardized society mask regulated by the Venetian government and usually worn by men. The Colombina mask is actually a half mask covering the eyes, nose and upper cheeks. Often decorated with silver and gold it’s said it was designed for an actress who didn’t want her face to be covered completely. The Plague Doctor mask or the ‘Medico della peste” is one of the most bizarre and recognizable of the Venetian masks. This mask, however, did not start out as a carnival mask, but as a method of preventing the spread of plague.

The Venice carnival is supposed to be a fun related event. Wherever you look there will be people in traditional Venetian costumes, capes, gowns and masks. But it is not necessary to dress up exactly the same way. You can wear cool colorful clothes and throw in a masquerade mask for added effect. For beautiful costumes and masks visit

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