Christmas, Carnevale and other Traditions in Italy

Christmas, Carnevale and other Traditions in Italy 

The Catholic religion is very important in Italy.  In fact, 90% of the people in Italy are Catholic.  That’s almost 55 million people!  Because of this, the Catholic religion is celebrated widely in Italy.  One of the best ways to celebrate the Catholic religion is through the holidays of Pasqua and Carnevale, known in English as Easter and Carnival.

Carnevale is celebrated every year beginning on January 6th and continues on in the months of January, February, March and April, right before Pasqua. Pasqua typically occurs on the first Sunday after Passover, the Jewish religious holiday (end of March-early April).  Both commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Resurrection means to be raised from the dead.  These traditions are very important to Catholics, but also very fun to celebrate.  They are celebrated similar to Easter is celebrated in the United States, with Easter egg hunts and chocolate egg treasures.  However, Italians celebrate it slightly different.  Read here to learn about how Easter and Carnival are celebrated in Italy and my first time experiencing it all!

Catholics around the world have many similar traditions.  These can become national traditions and can often be celebrated as a national holiday. For example, Valentine’s Day (San Valentino), Christmas (Natale), Carnival (Carnevale) and Easter (Pasqua) are huge celebrations in Italy.  Read here to learn more about the history of these holidays and how they are celebrated in Italy.

What tradition did I learn about?

I learned about CarnevaleCarnevale happens once a year in Milan and usually lasts for three weeks.  Carnevale is a religious Catholic holiday.  During Carnevale, people celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by having grand celebrations full of food and music.  Everyone throws confetti (coriandoli, pronounced cor-ee-an-doe-lee) and sprays silly string in the streets.

Italians also celebrate Carnevale by dressing up in bright colors, costumes and masks.  According to some research I did about Carnevale, the earliest use of mask in Venice, Italy was May 2, 1268!  In fact, when I visited Venice during their Carnevale celebration, there were mask shops everywhere!  I even got to buy some masks for my family to bring a little piece of the Italian Carnevale celebration back home with me.  The masks are colorful and painted with all different types of colors.  It is really easy to customize a mask because they come in all different shapes, sizes and designs.  You can make or buy one very unique and just for you in leather, porcelain, wood, plastic and even glass.  The masks I bought were sparkled with jewels and glitter.  Carnevale is celebrated with such elaboration because of the Venetian victory of the Repubblica della Serenissima war in the year 1162.  In honor of this victory, people danced and reunited in the San Marco Square, a major meeting area in Venice, Italy.   

Carnevale is also a fun celebration because of all the food and sweet deserts you get to have!  One dish that is eaten a lot during Carnevale is tortelliTortelli is fried dough covered in powdered sugar.  It looks like a donut.  I really have enjoyed seeing the costumes and eating the food.  I even went to a Carnevale event with my friends.  This event was like a Carnival I have been to in the United States: a lot of games, cotton candy, popcorn and rides.

Approximately three million people come to Venice every year to celebrate Carnevale.  I am very fortunate to have been one of these three million and celebrate an event that is so important to Italians and the Italian culture.

Why does the community have this tradition?

Carnevale is a religious Catholic holiday.  Carnevale is celebrated to remember the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, or, as some people call it, Easter.  Easter is called Pasqua in Italy and is even more important than Carnevale.  Easter comes from Eostara, the pagan goddess of rebirth.  This is why during Easter, you see many decorations of eggs and baby chicks that symbolize birth of new life.  All over the country you can see streets, parks, restaurants, and homes decorated with eggs, bunny rabbits and baby chicks.  During Pasqua, people usually attend Sunday mass at the Catholic church.  After church, children have egg hunts, color eggs and eat chocolate eggs just like many children in the United States.  Many things like schools and business offices are closed, making Easter a great opportunity for families to celebrate together.  In fact, my homestay family went on a week long vacation to celebrate Easter.

Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?

Carnevale is a holiday celebrated by countries whose citizens follow the Catholic religion.  Carnevale is celebrated all over Italy and Europe.  Other countries that celebrate Carnevale include Brazil in South America, Prague and Spain.

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