Carnevale Cometh, and Lent Beckons

Alina Rigo
Photo credit: Alina Rigo

Soon the streets of Venice will overflow with a flood – not of water, as usual – but of tourists and food. For soon the rituals of Carnevale, or Mardi Gras (also called Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday ) will once more surge into popular culture. The official date of Mardi Gras in 2022 falls on March 1.

Mardi Gras, officially only one day on the liturgical calendar, is the term used by most people for a two-week period (or longer) of Carnival, or “carne vale”” Italian for “farewell to meat.” Based, of course, on ancient Greek and Roman fertility festivals, “Carnevale” was the last opportunity to gorge on meat and drink to excess before the rigorous Lenten restrictions took hold. In modern Greece, the ancient festival called “Apokria” (Farewell to Meat) has been assimilated into Catholic Lenten practices. Beginning two weeks before Ash Wednesday (and the beginning of Lent), families start off the holiday with a pig or lamb roast. Following that, for two weeks, there is all manner of celebrating, including in some villages people dressing in goatskin masks and ringing strings of sheep’s bells. All of this is reminiscent of the Dionysian roots of the festival.

Urlin states that the chief figure of Carnival in France, Spain, and Italy is a grotesque figure that leads the debauchery and then is “killed” in a violent manner. Dating to the ancient Roman Saturn cult, this practice in England resulted in a figure called “More,” who was dressed in women’s clothes. Saturn was the god of seeds and plantations. [Note: Obviously a fertility rite of some sort.]

3 thoughts on “Carnevale Cometh, and Lent Beckons

  1. I was in Venice for Carnavale. Haunting and inspiring! And the cookies – yum! They don’t taste the same here, not enough crunch and too greasy. I had them americanos – divine! Be well, The Hostess

  2. What an illuminating article Cynthia. I can hardly wait to learn more about the foods of the celebration.

    Thanks so much for sharing…

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