by Claudia, age: 12 years
In Italy, there is a fun period known as il Carnevale. It is a time when people dress up in fancy costumes and there are street parades and parties. Tutti si divertono! - Everyone has a great time!
Il Carnevale is the period just before la Quaresima - Lent.
The final day of Carnevale is il Martedì Grasso - Shrove Tuesday.
During il Carnevale it is the tradition to eat le frittelle. These are long, thin fritters and they taste a bit like doughnuts. Mia nonna (my grandma) makes fantastic frittelle. In the days of Carnevale, everyone goes to her house because they know that there will be a continuous supply of frittelle deliziose.
I always watch mia nonna when she makes le frittelle. It is amazing to see how she pours the liquid mixture through a funnel into a frying pan and then winds it round and round into a spiral-shaped fritter.
The bigger the frying pan (la padella) the bigger the fritter!
Normally, when the fritter is cooked, she sprinkles it with lo zucchero - sugar - and cuts the big spiral shape into pieces. Mia nonna calls the whole fritter una ruota, meaning 'a wheel.'
The children in my family prefer to have a whole 'wheel' to themselves! We carry le nostre ruote - our wheels - around, and try to eat them without any pieces breaking.
Another type of fritter that is prepared during Carnevale is called le chiacchiere - meaning 'the pieces of gossip'. These fritters are dusted in lo zucchero a velo - icing sugar.
A traditional dessert for il Carnevale is il sanguinaccio dolce. It is a creamy chocolate pudding that was originally prepared with pig's blood! The word sangue - blood - is hidden in the word sanguinaccio. It is often served with the fritters mentioned above called le chiacchiere, or sponge fingers called i savoiardi.
The selling of pig's blood has been banned in Italy since 1992.
Il Carnevale ends on il Martedì Grasso - Shrove Tuesday. The words Martedi Grasso literally mean 'fat Tuesday.'
Domanda: Why is it called 'fat Tuesday?'
Risposta: No doubt, because you can eat as much as you like (especially meat) on that day.
The opposite is mangiare di magro - to eat a fat-free, 'thin' diet, without meat or eggs.
The Italian word carne - meat - is hidden in the word Carnevale. Traditionally, this was a period of eating plenty of meat and other goodies that would be prohibited during the solemn forty-day period of La Quaresima - Lent.
The fasting period of Lent begins on the day after 'fat Tuesday' and is a time of giorni di magro - 'thin, fat-free days' without meat or eggs.
Conclusione: Il Martedì Grasso è il gran finale del Carnevale!
During il Carnevale there are le sfilate - parades, i costumi - costumes, le maschere - masks and le feste - merry-making throughout the towns of Italy.
Ogni anno, al Carnevale io ho la faccia dipinta, metto una maschera e indosso un costume. - Each year, at Carnevale I have my face painted, I put on a mask and I wear a costume. Lo adoro! - I love it!
Even mio papà - my dad - dresses up. He looks really silly. Che vergogna! - How embarrassing! It's a good thing that nobody recognises him! Meno male! - Just as well!
Il Carnevale di Venezia
The greatest Italian Carnevale take place in the city of Venezia - Venice. It is famous for the masks and costumes that people wear. Although I am from the town of Alghero, I have visited il Carnevale di Venezia.
In this photo, mio papà is wearing a costume and mask called il Medico della Peste - the Plague Doctor.
This mask is based on how doctors would cover their faces to protect themselves from catching the plague - la peste - centuries ago. The costume is all black - in the style of the plague doctor's uniform.
Mio papà, indossando una maschera al Carnevale di Venezia.
In this photo, two people are wearing a mask called una bauta. It is all white and has no visible opening for the wearer's mouth. The chin of the mask sticks out - hiding a space underneath so that there is plenty of room around the wearer's mouth for speaking, drinking and eating.
This style of mask used to be worn at meetings when opinions and voting took place but people wanted to stay in disguise! This style of mask allowed them to wear it all day - even whilst eating and drinking.
Their identity was not revealed!
This style of Venetian mask is called una colombina. It covers only the eyes.
This mask is called la moretta. It is has no opening for the mouth. It is difficult to keep on your face because it has no straps. It is held on by the wearer gripping an internal button between their teeth, meaning that they cannot speak whilst wearing it. For this reason it is also called la servetta muta - meaning 'the mute servant woman'.
Il volto is a full-face mask. The word volto is a way to say face. This type of mask is tied on with ribbons at the back of the head and usually worn with fancy headdress.
Here is my photo album of when I visited il Carnevale di Venezia:
Below is a video featuring the masks of il Carnevale di Venezia. During the video, the famous Italian violinista Federico Agostini is playing the movement Inverno - Winter- from Le Quattro Stagioni - The Four Seasons - by Antonio Vivaldi.
How many masks do you recognise?
After all the fun of Carnevale, there is La Quaresima - Lent. It starts on il Mercoledì delle Ceneri - Ash Wednesday - which is the day following il Martedì Grasso - Shrove Tuesday. On this Wednesday, we go to church and the priest rubs some ash onto our foreheads. The mark of ash is in the shape of una croce - a cross.
During La Quaresima, we try to be well-behaved and not to eat too much. It is the opposite of the over-eating and party-time of Carnevale!
The period of La Quaresima ends at Easter time on il Giovedì Santo - Holy Thursday - during la Settimana Santa - Holy Week.