This is one unique festival that kicks off the celebration of the Lenten season.

The Carnival of Venice, first recorded as taking place in 1296, is one festival that seems like it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. This beautiful celebration takes place about two weeks before and runs through to Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). 1296 is a long time ago, and much has happened between then and now (obviously), so the carnival has been canceled and revived multiple times including in 1797 when the Venetian Empire fell to Napolean, as well in the 1930s when Mussolini banned the festivities. Through all, it has persevered to today. One of the main features of the carnival is the famous Venetian carnival masks. The people traditionally wear them to kick off the carnival season, as well as at midnight of Fat Tuesday to close out the festival. The purpose of the original papier-machemasks was to blur the distinction between the nobility and the common people so that all could participate in the celebration. Now they’re more commonly made of leather. These leather masks are significantly more ornate, with gold leafs, hand painted feathers and gems. The 3 main types of masks are Bauta, Larva (it’s prettier than it sounds) and Moretta. The Bauta is a whole face with no mouth and lots of gilding, but some allow for an opening in the mouth to eat, drink and be merry. The Larva, or Volto, is a typical Venetian mask that is the most popular mask at the festival. The Moretta is an oval mask of black velvet finished off with a veil. Venetians and visitors alike wear 18th century costumes borrowed from the days of Casanova, where they can attend an average of five major events per day. This traditional pre-Lenten festival puts to shame other celebrations such as Mardi Gras with the gorgeous costumes, lavish parties, and centuries of history.


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