We know that the Epiphany takes all holidays away but perhaps not everyone knows that January 7th is when the Carnival lapse of time officially kicks off.
Well yes, the Carnival period of tolerance and abundance starts from the day after Epiphany until the day before Ash Wednesday - the first day of Lent - a period of abstinence and fasting. Therefore, Mardi Gras (or Shrove Tuesday) Shrove Tuesday is never on the same calendar day as its date changes every year according to the lunar phases. In fact Easter must necessarily be celebrated on the Sunday following the first spring full moon, according to the Gregorian calendar.
Carnival as we know it today comes from the Christian-Catholic tradition of allowing the populace to exceed before entering a period of penance and purification, which symbolically emulates the 40 days of Jesus' stay in the desert, where he resisted the temptations of the flesh and spirit through prayer ("Quaresima" actually derives from "quaranta", which is the Italian for 40).
The most accredited version on the origin of the word dates back to the Latin “carnem levare” which then becomes "carne, vale!" or “meat, goodbye!”In fact, since the Greek-Roman era we have news of celebrations where the populace was allowed to ignore social obligations and hierarchies, to embrace jokes and debauchery and to exceed the intake of food. Chaos prevailed over the established order which was overthrown, like a primordial return to creation. The idea was, once celebrations were over, to cross the threshold of a new life cycle with renewed purity.
But could you imagine that in Venice the Carnival period was 4 months long???? From All Saints' Day (November 1st) to the aforementioned Shrove Tuesday! The Venetians definitely knew how to have fun. Just think that the first written evidence of the existence of a Venice Carnival goes back to an edict of 1094, the very year of the miraculous discovery of Saint Mark's remains.
Last year the celebrations of Venice Carnival were abruptly interrupted and canceled as Covid-19 pandemic broke out and this year the planned events are unfortunately very few, restricted and for the most part supported by online platforms to avoid the risk of social gatherings.
Do not lose heart and follow me from today to February 16th on a journey of history, crafts, costumes, theater, food and traditions related to this unusual and irreverent moment of the year.