In America we think of New Orleans when we think of the late winter holiday. But the origins are in Venice.
Mardi Gras is around the corner: February 13 to be exact.
And that means that in Venice, they will be partying until dawn. It’s the last day of Carnevale (Carnival), the original late winter/early spring festival that marks the period before Lent.
Translated literally, the name means fat Tuesday. But that’s not the real meaning. The more precise translation would be feast Tuesday.
Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Europe, the Catholic calendar was divided into “fast” or “Lenten” days and “feast” days.
On fast days, you weren’t allowed to eat any milk, meat, or eggs. Even today, although we Catholics don’t observe the rigid calendar that Catholics followed hundreds of years ago, there are still many of them who do not eat meat on Fridays, for example. And of course, you are not supposed to eat meat on Good Friday (Holy Friday for Catholics in Italy, as it is called there) or Christmas Eve.
The Feast Tuesday of Carnevale is the last feast day before the Catholic period of Lent, the period that leads up to Easter, when you are not supposed to eat meat, from Ash Wednesday until Easter (it’s a form of “self-denial”).
Many believe that the origin of Carnevale was the fact that people wanted to party, to indulge before the period of Lent. Of course, Carnevale is also associated with ancient pagan winter festivals that marked the end of the cold weather.
Whether you are in Venice or New Orleans this year on Mardi Gras, be sure to drink a glass of Prosecco! That’s the unofficial wine of Venice and it’s the wine that a lot of folks will be drinking to celebrate!