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Venice Carnival: history and traditional events

Venice Carnival is one of the most famous and beloved carnivals in the world.
Book a tour of Venice in February and experience the atmosphere of the Venetian carnival.

The history of Carnival of Venice

It is not known exactly when the Venice Carnival started, but it is believed that the first carnival was organized by the people in 1162 to celebrate a victory over the Patriarchate of Aquileia. It is also thought that the carnival was held to welcome spring in Pagan culture.

It is also said that the sick people who survived the black plague epidemic that killed half of the city's population in 1348 wore long clothes and masks to hide their images. Over time, these masks became colorful and a symbol. Even long-nosed masks were called plague masks.

Although centuries have passed, we see that the sadness and dull expression symbolized in the masks has not disappeared even today.
In addition, it is also said that Venetians hide their faces with masks in order to hide their identities at parties, so that aristocrats and low-class people can mingle at these parties regardless of class distinctions.

When Napoleon took control of the city in 1797, they banned the wearing of costumes and entertainment. For this reason, the carnival could not be held for a period of approximately 200 years. In 1979, it was started to be celebrated again, thinking that it would revive tourism. Since then, the colorful clothes worn during the carnival and the interesting masks have turned the city into a very active entertainment center.

When is the Venice carnival 2023?

Masks of Carnival of Venice

Carnival period is determined every year according to the religious calendar of Christians.
Before Easter, Christians observe a 40-day fast called Lent. They do not eat animal foods during this fast. This fasting begins every year on Wednesday, called Ash Wednesday.
Here, the carnival starts on a Saturday and ends on Tuesday, 11 days later (one day before Ash Wednesday, on the Tuesday of Repentance).

The word carnival already comes from the Latin words carne vale and means farewell to the flesh. Venice Carnival 2023 will be from February 4th to February 21st.

Venice Carnival: Events and Competitions

During the Carnival, events, shows and competitions are held in St. Mark's Square.
Before you go, you can check the program on the website and buy tickets to the competition or show you want. Apart from the daytime shows, you can also go to parties and classical music concerts at night.

Venice Carnival competitions

The most interesting of the competitions is the Best Costume and Mask Contest (La Maschera Più Bella – Best Masked Costume Contest), which is held twice every day.

In the competition, masked and costumed people line up, walk the podium, and are voted on by the jury.

It would be a good choice to buy tickets in front of the stage in order to photograph these competitions well.

The most important events of Carnival in Venice

Festa delle Marie Parade
The Festa delle Marie Parade is a beauty pageant dating back to the 9th century.
At that time, the contest was organized between beautiful girls from poor families.

Among the 12 girls who were dressed in fancy clothes and jewels, the most beautiful one was chosen. Thus, it was aimed that the poor girl who won the competition could receive her dowry.

Over time, the name of the competition has been heard. Thereupon, a pirate raid took place in the competition for a year.
The pirates kidnapped the girls. When the people of Venice managed to save the girls and the jewelry they wore from the pirates, they decided to reward Madonna (Marie) for helping them.

In this ceremony, 12 young girls, blessed as Marie, carried by the gondolier, are brought before Prince Maurice Agosti in the role of Casanova in the company of the people.

This parade from San Piero di Castello along the Riva degli Schiavoni ends at St. Mark's Square, the official venue of the carnival.

Il Volo dell’Angelo – Flight of an Angel
In the show that takes place on the first Sunday of the carnival, an angel is flown with a rope from the Bell Tower (Campanile di San Marco (St Mark's Campanile) to the stage in the square.

It is of course very impressive to be in the crowd and share the excitement of the people during the show.

Il Volo dell’Aquila – Flight of the Eagle
In the performance held on the second Sunday of the carnival, a person who is given the role of an eagle is roping from the Bell Tower (Campanile di San Marco (St Mark's Campanile) to the stage in the square.
The person assigned the role of an eagle for this show changes every year.

Eagle is a gymnast, volleyball player, ice skater It can be an athlete, a famous composer or a filmmaker.

Lo Svolo del Leon – The Lion Flight
In this show, which took place on the last day of the carnival, the flag with the lion figure, which is considered the symbol of the city, is flown from the top of the Bell Tower to the Grand Theater (Gran Teatro) stage. Angels (women) called Maria welcome the flag. After this show, the carnival is closed.

Venice Shipyard (Arsenale) show
Fireworks, light and fire shows are held at 19.30 and 21.30 on the two weekends where the carnival is held.

5 Reasons why you should go Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival in Italy

  1. Venice Was and Will Always Be a Party City
    As early as the 18th century, Venice had become a tourist attraction. Entertainment, casinos and carnival kept the city teeming with people.

    This party atmosphere can also be seen in the paintings of Pietro Longhi and Gabriele Bella.
    You can see these paintings in the Querini Stampalia and Ca'Rezzonico museums and witness the fun past of the city.

  2. You Can Visit Casanova in Prison
    Casanova, the most famous of all the womanizers of all time, left an important mark in Venice. This charismatic gentleman, fond of pleasure and debauchery, was imprisoned in the Palace of Doctors for a period, and his cell can still be visited.

  3. You Can Learn the History of Masks
    The history of masks identified with Venice is as old as carnival. These entertainments were the only time of the year when people from the lower and upper economic classes were together, and the mask both served to make all kinds of outbursts without revealing their identity and to hide the differences between the classes.

    Famous Venetian masks were used so much in the 18th century by gamblers and women working in entertainment who wanted to hide their identity that they were forbidden to be worn outside of carnival times.

    Traditional masks are still produced and sold today, and Ca' Macanà stands out among the places where you can find them.

  4. You Can Complete Your Mask with A Stylish Cape
    If you want to mingle with the mysterious crowd and bought a mask, you should complete it with a stylish cape called “tabarro”.

    If you want to own one of the traditional Venetian style capes, you can visit the designer boutique Monica Daniele in San Marco.

  5. You Can Attend the Magnificent Venetian Balls
    Venice is among the few most preferred destinations for romance in the world.
    Carnival balls are the pinnacle of romance. You can attend one of these balls where dinner and entertainment are together.

    Tickets for these nights held in historical palaces are not cheap, but it is worth the expense for such an experience.

    One of the world's greatest romantic gestures was made in Venice in the 1840s. Russian prince Troubetzkoy gifted the Italian ballerina Marie Taglioni, whom he fell in love with, a palace on the Grand Canal in Venice: Ca d'Oro Palace.
    Today it serves as an art museum. By visiting the museum, you can see both the works and the unique architecture of the building, which is the subject of this romantic gesture.

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