Feb
10

Ready, aim, Carnival

By
I don't know what the rest of this partyer looked like -- I was too busy admiring her hands and mask.  I love her mitten -- it's like a hunting glove for stalking smurfs. Don't let the word get out that you don't have to encumber your entire body with pounds of upholstery fabric, and a long ton of accessories, to be all dressed up for Carnival.

I don’t know what the rest of this partyer looked like — I was too busy admiring her hands and mask. I love her woolly handwarmer.  It’s like a hunting mitten for stalking Smurfs. Don’t let the word get out that you don’t have to encumber your entire body with pounds of upholstery fabric, and a long ton of accessories, to be all dressed up for Carnival.  There would be civil unrest.

For whatever reason, Carnival does not attract me anymore.

Headlines such as the one yesterday reporting on Sunday’s attendance:  “100,000 yesterday for the opening of Carnival” could have something to do with my lack of enthusiasm.  Headlines such as one today: “The purse-cutters have arrived,” referring to the young pregnant Bosnian women who now, to expedite the lifting of your wallet, have taken to slashing your handbag, could also be relevant.  Crowds, however amusingly dressed, make life awkward, at best, for most people except other dressed-up persons and, of course, the purse-cutters.

But let’s do a fast rewind on the festivities so far.  Last Saturday — the day which opens the 11-day clambake — we saw the first major organized entertainment: The Procession of the Marias.

The main reason we saw it is because it takes place mere steps from our front door.  Also, the weather was beautiful and it was great to be outside.  Also, the participants outnumbered the spectators (or almost).

The program is simple.  Everyone lines up in Campo San Pietro and wends their way slowly, and with great clamor, across the wooden bridge and along the fondamenta to the foot of via Garibaldi.  Here the space opens comfortably and everyone has a chance to see the many costumed processioners, and the Marias themselves, close up.

“Everyone” includes the Marias (obviously), the phalanx of young men assigned to carry the Marias, and abundant and varied troupes of trumpeters, drummers, knights, commoners, banner-twirlers, and the doge and his wife and some Venetian senators and councilors, all in vaguely Renaissance garb.

The girls are loaded onto their respective wooden platforms, hoisted on the shoulders of their bearers, and carried at the head of the procession all the way to the Piazza San Marco, where they mount the stage and are generally admired and photographed.  On February 16, the penultimate day of Carnival, the Maria of 2015 will be chosen and crowned.

In case this doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, the Maria of today will become the “Angel” of next year, sliding down a wire from the top of the campanile of San Marco to the pavement on the opening day of Carnival.

Here are some things I enjoyed seeing this year.  Yes, there were things I enjoyed.  Briefly.

Not really marching, more like strolling.  The important thing is not to stop suddenly.  Or at all.

Not really marching, more like strolling. The important thing is not to stop suddenly. Or at all.

I’m guessing that the three life-size paperdolls (which ought to be of wood), recall the eventual fate of the Marias and their festival. Conflict and strife arose between the participating families (when your daughter’s in a beauty contest with really rich prizes, you tend to get tetchy), so the Serenissima substituted Marias made of wood, and when nobody was happy with those, stopped the festival altogether. That was in 1379, so I guess they made their point.

    I like the lookers at least as much as the looked-upon.

I like the lookers at least as much as the looked-upon.

This little guy was my favorite. But why is he trapped behind the window? Everybody else has got their windows open and their mufflers on.

This little guy was my favorite. But why is he trapped behind the window? Everybody else has got their windows open and their mufflers on.

The grandmothers are hardier than anybody.

Case in point.

The Marias had lovely costumes but I was appalled to see that they had spent the morning in hairdo hell.  When you consider the labor involved in arranging all this hair, and applying 146 layers of hairspray, not to mention the pain, they might as well have gone one step further and just worn wigs.

The Marias had lovely costumes but I couldn’t stop looking at their hair.  They must have spent the morning in hairdo hell, the tonsorial equivalent of Scarlett O’Hara getting laced into her corset. When you consider the labor involved in arranging all this hair, and applying 146 layers of hairspray, not to mention the pain, they might as well have gone one step further and just worn wigs.

I've already picked my favorite, if anybody cares.  No idea what her name is, but if she doesn't win, I'm going to have to take action.

I’ve already picked my favorite, if anybody cares. No idea what her name is, but if she doesn’t win, I’m going to have to take action.

Let the procession proceed, immortalized by the everlasting selfie.

Let the procession proceed, immortalized by the everlasting selfie.

He may be asking the Carnival equivalent of "What's the weather up there?"

He may be asking the Carnival equivalent of “How’s the weather up there?”

And the caravan moves on, up via Garibaldi toward the Riva degli Schiavoni.  Better keep moving while the sun's still shining because as soon as it starts to set, the cold will make your hair break off.

And the caravan moves on, up via Garibaldi toward the Riva degli Schiavoni. Better keep moving while the sun’s still shining because as soon as it starts to set, the cold will make your hair break off.

These are major trumpeters, evidently saving their fanfares for the Piazza San Marco.

These are major trumpeters, evidently saving their fanfares for the Piazza San Marco.

Bringing up the rear is a quartet of "sbandieratori," or banner-throwers-and-twirlers.

Bringing up the rear is a quartet of “sbandieratori,” or banner-throwers-and-twirlers.

Moving on to the next banner-throwing stop.

Moving on to the next banner-throwing stop.

Speaking of banners, I have no idea what regiment, nation, creed or sport this might belong to, but it looked great in the wind.

Speaking of banners, I have no idea what regiment, nation, creed or sport this might belong to, but it looked great in the wind.

And the Maria-cade moves on toward the distant Piazza San Marco.  Better them than us.

And the Maria-cade moves on toward the distant Piazza San Marco. Better them than us.

No pressure, but if you know one of the judges, remind him or her that this is the winner.

No pressure, but if you know one of the judges, remind him or her that this is the winner.

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Categories : Venetian Events

Comments

  1. jeanne says:

    missed it; thanks for taking pictures

  2. Alexandra Seutcheu says:

    How lovely!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Jean Difford says:

    Erla,
    I just wanted to thank you so much for your musing ( for want of a better word ). I absolutely love reading your articles, they are just so true! I am a Venice lover and come as often as possible to stay with my friend on the Lido. I have experienced two carnivales and just loved reading about this one. Thank you again, never fail to make me chuckle.

  4. Yvonne says:

    Oh, I heartily approve and support your choice of THE Maria. I do hope she triumphs. get those votes in, folks. Are you allowed to vote more than once?

    But, I wonder if she really wants to dangle above the Piazza mob next year?

  5. Erla says:

    Well, I don’t think anybody enters these things thinking, “Gosh, I hope I don’t win.” She has almost certainly already made her peace with the idea of dangling above the mob next year.

    As for votes, you can vote every day till Feb. 15. However, I don’t believe the votes really matter; I think they’ve already decided who’s going to win. Most beauty pageants are like that, as I understand. So I’m just going to trust that more important people than I have been smitten with her.

  6. […] best of all, MY “Maria” won the pageant, and was crowned the Maria of 2015.  I was as shocked to discover my wish being […]

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