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Carnival involves a jolly attitude because in the past people were not allowed to celebrate anything during Lent (the 40-day period leading up to Easter). Carnival was their last chance. After that, no meat, no sugar, no music, no dancing, no plays, reason why thespians don’t like the color purple in theatres because priests wear purple during Lent.

The main Carnival period goes from Giovedì Grasso (Fat Thursday) and Martedì Grasso (Shrove Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday. It is celebrated everywhere in Italy; each region has its own traditional masks and its own traditional sweets. Pranks are also common, hence the saying A Carnevale Ogni Scherzo Vale, (any prank goes during carnival).

The origin of the name "Carnival" is disputed between those who believe that it comes from the word "carne" (meat) and the verb “levare” (take away) -- meaning "take meat out of your meals" since meat is one of the many things prohibited during Lent -- and those who argue that it is a pagan holiday and the name comes from the words "carrus" (wagon, charriot) “navalis” for the festival of the Navigium Isidis (ship of Isis), where the image of Isis was carried to the sea-shore in an adorned wooden boat followed by a parade that would reflect the floats of modern Carnivals.

Either way, masks have been used almost universally since the beginning of civilization for their power and mystery that involve the wearers as well as the people who look at them. During Carnival you can wear a costume or just a mask and join a parade, a masquerade ball, you can party on the streets or at a friend's house, throw colorful confetti, make noise, eat delicious fried sweets for a week. If you live in Venice, Carnival starts the day after Christmas, goes on for 6 weeks, and they have been doing it since 1268.







Karneval in Rom, BY Johannes Lingelbach (1622–1674)