Often referred to as one of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice is known for its glorious canals, gondola rides, narrow lanes and a myriad of colours that flow through this beautiful Italian island city. Topping almost every traveller’s bucket list, Venice is not just one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but also one of the most desired. If you were to ask the Venetians- colour, culture and celebration embrace their vibrant spirit.
The Venice Carnival is also one of the largest in the world and renowned for its magical vibes, extravagant display of Venetian art and culture and its deep rooted spirit celebrating the history of Venetian society. It is an annual celebration particularly known for people dressing up in elaborate masks and costumes and gathering at the Piazza San Marco in front of the San Marco Cathedral in Venice, Italy.
A history of the Venice Carnival
In 1162 AD to honour the military victory of the Venetian Republic, locals celebrated by dancing, singing and parading at the Piazza San Marco marking the origins of the Venice Carnival. The celebration continued through the years and went through various transformations over the centuries. However, in the late 18th century, the Venetian Carnival celebrations were banned following the Austrian conquest in 1789. Through the years, the Venice Carnival went through a lot of transformations owing to the rulers, the society and its architects. This transformation was not only the transition in the style of celebration, but also the connotation of the various elements that related to the celebration.
In 1979, the Italian government, in its efforts to bring back the history and culture of Italy to attract tourists, resumed the celebrations in Venice. The modern day Venice Carnival is an extravagant affair that is annually celebrated for a period of two weeks concluding with the Christian celebration of Lent, also known as the Shrove Tuesday.
These two weeks of celebration are filled with a variety of events including the Grand Masquerade Ball, Costume contest, Mask contest, Classical Music Concerts, Masquerade Pub Crawls, parades, confetti, daily street performances and private events. It is touted that millions of tourists attend the Venice Carnival to participate in the festivities. It is also why many locals choose to create exciting displays and events during this period.
The masks are symbolic
Masks have been a long associated tradition with the Venice Carnival and are an important part of the celebrations. Over the years, the mask makers enjoyed a special place in the Venetian society, formalising it with a guild and special laws. It was believed that the masks and costumes worn during the celebrations made it possible for all members of the society to celebrate without any social divide or discrimination.
These masks were mostly handmade with materials like porcelain, leather and glass. Zanni, Medico Della Peste, Bauta, are some of the popular character masks that are a part of the Venetian mask culture. With the increasing importance and value of these masks, the local shopkeepers started selling them all year round. Tourists visiting the city at another time of the year began purchasing them as a souvenir of Venice.
The Venice Carnival, as magical as it sounds, is truly a vision to behold!
Things to keep in mind
1. For 2021, the festival is scheduled to take place from 30th January to 16th February. The dates change every year, best to check the calendar before planning your trip. Check information at this link
2. There is no entry fee. However, some events may be ticketed.
3. Don’t forget to carry your cameras for the carnival. Almost all participants are welcoming towards being photographed and strategically stop by various points at the St. Mark’s Square to pose for the on-lookers with their costumes and props.
4. You can dress up in elaborate attire or simply wear a traditional mask to participate in the festivities.
5. Most local shops sell a wide range of handmade masks and costumes for the festivities. These masks are priced starting from €25.
6. Book your flights and accommodation in advance, Venice can get exceptionally expensive during the carnival.
All images by Parampara and Parichay