It’s Gesimatide; Where’s the Party?

The Ridotto in Venice Pietro LonghiI’ve written about Gesimatide, Carnival, Shrovetide, Fastnacht; and their celebrations in England, Germany, and Brazil (both Rio and Bahia). I’ve posted simply frivolous posts in celebration of Carnival. However, I’ve avoided looking at Louisiana and Venice. I’m not sure why. Somehow those celebrations never really inspired me. Mardi Gras in New Orleans seemed a bit too common and the Venice Carnevale seemed a bit too superficial; a bit too aesthete; a bit too commercial.

Of course the Venice Carnevale didn’t start out as slick as it is today. The impetus behind it was primarily a religious necessity: fat needed to be used before the fasting of lent began on Ash Wednesday; a messy orgy of spending all this excess, luxurious fatty stuff was actually necessary.  In Venice, the party that began at Christmas never ended as the carnival season started on Saint Stephen’s Day. Masks were added to the celebration in the Renaissance. With the advent of mask-wearing there was a true sense of danger as unidentifiable people milled about in a three month season of Carnevale, masking their identities as they visited casinos and brothels and engaged in all sort of nefarious affairs. At the height of the fervor for Carnival, people would be masked for up to six months a year. It was the Austrian conquest of Venice that put a stop to that. And the rise of Mussolini in the 1930s actually outlawed Carnival in Venice, mask wearing, and other traditional carnival costumes like the three cornered hat.

The Carnival that’s known in Venice today is a 1970s recreation of the carnival that was wounded by the Austrians, and then killed off by the Fascists. It seems that much of the underlying danger and anonymity  is merely a slick gloss of disco era loucheness lacking the delicious decay of decadence.

Was that German?


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