Venice Carnival is a centuries old tradition and one of the world’s most famous carnivals. The Carnival of Venice also became our own tradition during the seven years that we called Italy home, masquerading each year in La Serenissima with the locals and tourists alike. The costumes, events and parties over the 10 days leading up to Fat Tuesday make Venice Carnival one of the biggest events in Italy, but it’s the masks – the quintessential feature – that makes the Carnival of Venice unique from Italy’s other famous carnivals.
The tradition of the mask started in the 13th century when Venetians would hold celebrations and parties from December 26th until the start of Lent and wear elaborate masks to conceal their identity. These parties were the only time when the lower and upper classes mingled together. Aristocrats and peasants, disguised by their masks, played out their fantasies together. They indulged in illicit activities like gambling, clandestine affairs, political assassination, and dancing and partying the night away
The Venice Carnival began in 1162 in celebration of the Venice Republic's victory over its enemy: the Patriarch or Aquileia. The people of Venice gathered in Saint Mark's Square (San Marco) to dance and celebrate their victory. Ever since then, the victory was celebrated in the streets of Venice.
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