Carnival closing in


This year Carnival is starting early, thanks to the lunar schedule which governs Easter (January 27 – February 13, if you’re keeping track; two and a half weeks, which seems long, but it’s three weekends, which is what really matters).  Therefore we are enjoying a shorter-than-usual interlude of calm and tranquility between Epiphany and the aforementioned Carnival — a mere three weeks, which isn’t nearly long enough to take all those deep breaths you so urgently need.  But there’s no arguing with the Paschal Full Moon, counting backwards from, and I imagine the city fathers would be happy for it to run for six months, as it did in the olden days, considering how much lucre spills into the municipal coffers therefrom.

What I am enjoying are the jolly signs of its approach.  Here are just a few glances around the neighborhood.  And yes, as every year, the frittelle are appearing in the pastry shops, and wild swaths of confetti have already been seen strewn across the pavement.  I notice that the garbage-collectors have been sweeping them away.  Why?  They’re not a health hazard.  They’re not a safety hazard.  They’re not ugly or offensive.  I wouldn’t have thought it possible to find yet another reason to complain about the garbage-collectors-and-sweepers, but I can’t see why they don’t devote whatever small, random spasms of energy they may experience with their brooms to sweeping away real trash, and just leave these merry little fragments of frivolity on the pavement, where they can cheer people up.  But so many things perplex me, no point in picking just one.

This is all it takes to make me happy.  The people just distract me — it’s much better if I come across the confetti as if thrown by an occult hand.

The first indication I saw of the oncoming juggernaut was the entire section of the Coop supermarket window stacked with boxes of galani, bags of confetti, a packages of streamers.

Shards of flour, fat and sugar. You deserve a close-up of these little monsters, they are so good.  But what — no masks?  Not so fast…

Just around the corner, in the sensible-food aisle next to the shelves of dried legumes and cellophane-wrapped bread are some masks. They thought of everything.

As did Mario and his wife in the nameless housewares and detergent and mops and toothpaste shop.  You can get glitter eyeliner here too, while it lasts.

They’re keeping pace with the Carnival Diet in the Conad supermarket on the Lido. Boxes and boxes of galani brought in from some demented factory where the ovens are baking night and day.  I wonder if these are any better than the ones in our neighborhood?  I wonder if I should seek the answer to that question?


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Categories : Venetian Events


  1. Mark says:

    Finding scattered morning-after confetti must have some of the charm and infection cheer of finding traces of a recent wedding. We live vicariously through others’ joy.

    When I was a college kid studying in Rome, I ended up in Venice on what turned out to be Carnivale Tuesday. I knew from my history reading that observance once was big, now was extinct. A professoressa had mentioned it had a trace existence at the childhood level, not unlike the American Halloween.

    By chance I was in Piazza San Marco at the grey hour when school was out, and sure enough there were kids in a clutch, some attempting costume, one dressed as the Holy Father, held aloft in an orange crate, and waving a cardboard crosier and jug of wine.

    They turned into the Merceria to pelt with cooking flour the merchants and housewives who stood at their doors watching them, in what seemed a sort of game of laughter and scolding, a world turned up-side-down for a few minutes.

    I left them to their play and headed back to the basillica. The afternoon was growing late, the sky dim, and piazza empty of people. I was, perhaps, the only person under the shadowy and glinting domes, the dim lamps in red glass the brightest thing. Except for the semidome behind the pala d’oro, where a brighter light glowed on the mosaic of Christ in Majesty, and whence came the beautiful plainsong of vespers. In litergical terms, Ash Wednesday had begun.

    This was a bit over forty years ago, in the quiet of winter and the depths of the first fuel crisis, when worldwide travel and tourism were slim, so I could visit the precious monuments by myself, lingering, wandering, backtracking, studying at an unhurried pace, certainly never jostled. Easy to be nostalgic about that moment… but for the penetrating damp and cold.

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      I’m glad you have such vivid and beautiful memories. The first reincarnated Carnival that adults participated in was on Feb. 27, 1979. Maybe that after your trip to Venice.