Gravity-defying wigs, vintage masquerades and ostentatious balls have infiltrated the streets and waterways of Venice, and will continue to do so until the start of Lent on the 25th February. “Il Gioco, l’Amore e La Follia” (Game, Loveand Folly) form the theme of this year’s event, where up to three million visitors will come to marvel at the magic of Venice Carnival.
A Brief History of Venice
The festival allegedly began in 1162 to mark Venice’s victory over Aquileia, where the rich and poor came together to commemorate this event with fun and festivities. The Carnival, however, was actually forbidden by the King of Austria in 1797 until the nineteenth century. This was primarily due to the prevalence of illicit activities such as assassinations,affairs and gambling which were accelerated by the anonymity of the masks.
Carnival isn’t just a Catholic tradition rooted in celebrating the rites of spring, nor is it just an excuse to wear garish colours amongst a plethora of parade floats and pulsating music, it’s also a tradition that provides a vital creative outlet for artists around the world. So in the name of all things Game, Love and Folly, we have brought you some of the best and most famous Carnivals from across the globe.
1. New Orleans, Louisiana
Arguably the largest Martedì Grasso celebration in the U.S, the New Orleans Mardi Gras attracts thousands of visitors each year with its intricately-decorated floats and parades. Beads are thrown, banks are closed and masks are worn, as crowds watch revellers dance and sing their way to Lent.
Possibly the best-known Carnival in the world, Rio’s Samba tones, flamboyant costumes and abundance of feathers, glitter and rhythm have become etched in not only the city’s DNA but also the country’s. Huge floats of varying themes parade down The Sambódromo, a steel-drum-lined runway where fourteen of Rio’s best Samba schools perform. Prizes are given to the best dancers and each school picks a theme in the hope of impressing the judges.
Spain’s oldest Carnival, Cádiz’s origins lie in its connections with Venice in the 16th century, where the cities were significant trading partners. The festival is lined with satire, humour and Chirigotas, who are ready to sing mocking tunes about politicians and popular culture.
Dating back to approximately the 14th century, the Carnival of Binche is a UNESCO-recognised ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. Ostrich plumes adorn goers’ costumes, large hats are donned, and oranges are thrown, but the core of the carnival comes in the shape of the ‘Gilles.’ It is an honour to be chosen to play the part of a Gille; where these (usually male) clown-like performers wearvibrant dress, wooden footwear and wax masks ready to ward off evil spirits.