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08 March 2011

The Italian Carnevale

The Italian pre-Lenten festivities called Carnevale will end tomorrow, Fat Tuesday or better known as Mardi Gras.   In Italy, both adults & children celebrate it but the kids are more immersed in the conviviality because they can prance around in their costumes and throw the coriandoli (confetti) & stella filanti (streamers).   I would say much to the dismay of the adults who have to clean the houses & the streets.  It takes months for the last traces of the coriandoli to disappear.  Then the new celebration starts again.  Oh well.  At present, I am still picking up coriandoli everywhere in our house.  And these are just what my kids took home stuck in their clothes from the celebrations in the streets.

I was never really so involved with the Carnevale festivities before having kids.  I just enjoyed seeing girls brandishing their princess & fairy costumes, sometimes even fully made-up, the superhero boys in saltation & the flower or bee costumes with babies inside. 

Because I am writing about this, I wondered about its history and origin.  You can stop reading from this point on.  It can get boring.

I thought that it originated in France, having a French name, but I was wrong.  It actually originated right here where I am, in (Ancient) Rome!  While browsing some sites about it, I settled on the History site for enlightenment.   This celebration has been going on for thousands of years and traces its roots to the pagan celebrations of spring & fertility called Saturnalia & Lupercalia.   It was later integrated to the Christian faith when Christianity arrived in Rome because it was easier to do so than to abolish it.  Then it scattered in Europe.  It arrived in the U.S. in 1699.  In modern day, the most extravagant & popular is the Mardi Gras in Rio di Janeiro. 

Traditionally, this is the period when people indulge in meat, eggs, cheese, and other fatty food in preparation for the coming Lent, with Tuesday being the last day.  Thus, the name Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras.  In medieval Latin, carnelevalium means to remove or take away meat.

Here are some photos of the Carnevale along with the typical Italian cakes eaten during this season.  Every region in Italy has its own version of Carnevale cake. 

A carpet of coriandoli.
Gathering some more.

The typical Carnevale cakes in Rome. The pastry shops & bars are filled with them during this season
Dolci di San Giuseppe (cakes of St. Joseph) filled with cream & chocolate.   These cakes are out from this period until St. Joseph's Day on the 19th of March, when Italy celebrates Father's Day.
Frittelle a nodo.
Castagnole with limoncello.
Oven-baked & deep-fried frappe.

  Sicilian sfinci drizzled with honey.  Since you can only get this in Sicily, my husband's aunt made these.