Well, we came out of Christmas and I was really sad, but January is gone and we have something di look forward to, at last. Carnival is a festive season of street parties, masks, parades and theatrical improvisation. It is usually between February and March, during the preparation period historically known as Shrovetide, and its […]
Well, we came out of Christmas and I was really sad, but January is gone and we have something di look forward to, at last.
Carnival is a festive season of street parties, masks, parades and theatrical improvisation. It is usually between February and March, during the preparation period historically known as Shrovetide, and its name literally means “remove the meat”, which can also be seen as “farewell to the flesh” (any flesh you can think of).
All the rest of Italy celebrates it starting on a Sunday, approximately 40 days after the Epiphany, and this year that Sunday happens to be February, 14th, which also happens to be St. Valentine’s Day. After the last day of Carnival, we have 40 days which are the days of lent. So basically this period leading up to Carnival from Christmas is the period in which we mend together a solar calendar (Christmas is always on December, 25th) and a lunar calendar (Easter is always on a Sunday). It starts on Sunday, peaks on Tuesday and ends with a Wednesday of penance, called Wednesday of the Ashes.
So far so good?
For those of you who are not familiar with what I’m talking about, the lent is a period of forty days, called “quaresima” it Italian, from the latin quadrigesima, leading up to Easter, during which you supposedly fast and stay on the straight and narrow, waiting for Easter. It echoes the forty days spent in the desert by Jesus before he entered into public life, as narrated in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which usually go together in narrating stuff. Long story short, it’s supposed to be 40 days by definition. Apparently, the English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word lencten, meaning “spring season“.
All this is good and fun, but I live in Milan and we have a different calendar. We have a lot of little differences, when it comes to the liturgy: the mass is a little different, we have different prayers, but, modt notably, our lent is shorter than forty days. The whole set of differences is called the Ambrosian Rite, because of Saint Ambrose who was bishop of Milan during the IV Century. Last time someone tried to “reform us”, we were so upset that we rioted against the archbishop. The main difference is that we have no such thing as mardi gras: our carnival starts on Thursday, peaks on Saturday and ends with a celebration of penance on Sunday. Therefore, my Carnival peaks on February, 20th. Since we’re really naughty, we start it on the same Tuesday everyone else calls “mardi gras”, so our Carnival is longer, stronger, louder.
Now, as I was saying, really committed people have started preparing for this right after the Epiphany, but we’ve had the Advent Calendar and the 12 Days of Christmas and I also have a job, so I took a break. We’ll start today and, since improvised street theatre is a big part in the celebration of Carnival, we’ll have a Marionette Monday and a Wizard Wednesday.
A marionette is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings depending on regional variations.
Next Monday, I’ll give you an independent artist who produces marionettes and I’ll also try and give you one or more stories you can try and stage with them.
…and we’ll see how it goes from there.