Celebrate Venice Carnival Behind the Refuge of a Mask
Ironically, the Venetian Carnival was regulated by strict rules back in the 14th Century, and Carnival-goers were not allowed to wear masks around the city at night time, and men could not enter convents if they were disguised as women. Celebrations within the nun parlours were strictly prohibited, and in the face of the Carnival's lack of religious significance, the city officials were determined to uphold the morality of Venetian citizens. The consequences for breaking any of these laws were drastic, and men could be sentenced to two years in jail, 18 months service to the Republic galley-rowing, and a fine of 500 lire. Women were arguably punished even more severely for their transgressions. In addition to the fine, they were whipped, publicly humiliated in St. Mark's Square and were not allowed to enter the Republic of Venice for four years.
It was not until the late 1700s that the laws were relaxed and citizens were allowed to wear masks throughout the entirety of the Carnival. The Venice Carnival became a time to forget one's gender and social status, and to lose oneself in revelry. The usual costume was a cloak and a long nosed, white mask. Musicians played in squares, entertaining citizens with guitars and singing. People could spend their money on gambling tables and wander the streets listening to music.
Today, the Venetian Carnival is just what the name proclaims—a carnival. It no longer reflects most of the traditions of old. Costumes have become more elaborate and parties have become wilder. The Carnival of Venice attracts visitors from around the world, and those who do not wear costumes and masks are sometimes subjected to teasing by gangs of young Venetian boys. Venice Carnival takes place in the ten days before Lent, and only the most ardent celebrators can last throughout the entire ten days of parties, banquets, music and dancing—which take along the streets and canals. People swarm through the streets spending money on gambling tables, enjoying the celebrations and the anonymity a traditional carnival mask provides.
When to Go to Venice Carnival
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