image of carnivale mask

Make/Play/Watch/Read: Carnivale di Venezia

Entertainment Holidays

Are you ready for the most elaborate and extravagant party of the year? It’s Carnivale!! And this year, YOU are invited to join the most famous Carnivale of all: Carnivale di Venezia

Okay, so there are many things about 2020 (and subsequently 2021 so far) we may not like but there have also been some great things to come out of it too. For example, there is a plethora of cultural activities and opportunities to join thanks to the power of the internet. One of these amazing events is the Venice Carnivale, locally known as Carnivale di Venezia. This year, the festivities will be hosted virtually, allowing people from all around the world to see the most spectacular cultural event on the social calendar. For more details, head to the Carnevale di Venezia official website here (offered in English and Italian). 

Take special note of the International Children’s Carnival (February 6-14), aimed at school children of all ages with online activities available through registration. There are costume sketches from the Biennale Historical Archive, music and dance workshops, and guided tours through historic centres in Venice. Best of all, it’s free and open to everyone around the world!

If you are coming to the party, you are going to need some preparation time. Lucky for you, we have the perfect Make / Play / Watch / Read to ready you for Carnivale. 

What is Carnivale?

Carnival is the biggest celebration in Italy (nope, nope. There is no argument on this. Carnivale IS the biggest). Traditionally, it was the last chance for Catholics to really go all-out on the extravagant lifestyle, before the party ends on Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras) and the beginning of Lent (40 days of good behaviour before Easter). 

The date for Carnivale changes every year because it is based on the Easter dates which are subsequently based on the Pagan origins of a lunar festival in Spring. Easter is always the first full moon after the Equinox and Carnivale is a two-week festival that ends 40 days before Easter. So, Carnivale 2021 will start… {looks at calendar closely}  January 30! Let’s do this!

Make: DIY Carnivale Mask

What is Carnivale without a mask? This is the last big party before everyone is supposed to give it all up for Lent. However, you do not have to be Catholic (or even Christian) to enjoy the festivities. That is the benefit of the mask: anonymity. Traditionally, the mask was to hide your identity, and subsequently your responsibility, from all the sordid activities during Carnivale. It was also a way to remove the social differences of everyone, making it all about your behaviour and not your status. 

The Venetian masks date back to the 13th century when parties would start soon after Christmas and last a lot longer than the two weeks today. Masks needed to be sturdy and elaborate to ensure full protection of one’s identity. Today, there are no rules or expectations for your mask. Make it as colourful and creative as you like! 

For an easy kid-friendly design, check out fellow GeekMom Sarah’s Felt Masks–soft, fun, and oh-sew-quick. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the creative complexity of EG Dad’s cardboard elephant mask (instructions from Wintercroft). 

DIY cardboard mask of elephant for Carnivale

Do it. I dare you. 

Play: Assassin’s Creed II

According to my very Catholic grandmother, spending the night gaming would indeed be a sinful ‘Carnivale’ thing to do. Bless her soul, she doesn’t get out much. However, if you are looking to spend your Carnivale night gaming, the least we can do is take you to Venice. The best game for this would be Assassin’s Creed II

Assassin’s Creed II is set in Renaissance Italy, including the absolutely stunning Venice. The game is a classic, released in 2009 and enjoying a renaissance of its own now with a re-release on almost every gaming platform in 2020. If you are not familiar with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, it is a series of open-world action-adventure video games from Ubisoft. The first was released in 2007 and the latest instalment is Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, released November 2020. The initial storyline centred on the main character, Desmond Miles, who uses a machine called the Animus to relive the memories of his ancestors. The majority of the game is presented in third-person and yes, you do go around killing a lot of people (not kid-friendly). What makes this game-series stand-out is the way they utilise the environment to create suspense and action with each of your missions. This is where Venice comes in.

Screenshot of Assassin’s Creed II, published by Ubisoft

If you are looking for a computer game featuring Venice at the height of its most extravagant, then Assassin’s Creed II is the game for you. The narrow cobbled walkways, a multitude of bridges and the silent slide of gondolas along the water are so characteristic of Venice, it is just like being there (and yes, I have been there and can compare). I especially love the Carnivale Games to win the elusive Golden Mask; like a golden ticket for The Biggest Party of Carnivale. The developers have done an insane amount of research to make the layout as historically and geographically accurate as possible. Absolutely love it. 

Watch: Spider-Man: Far From Home

There are quite a few movies set in Venice but we geeks know the best one is Spider-Man: Far From Home. I would say “Fight me on this” but considering the mess Spidey left in Venice, I don’t think that would be the responsible thing to do right now. 

In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker and his classmates casually fly across the Atlantic Ocean and enjoy a lovely little holiday/field-trip in Europe. As you do, pre-2020. The story takes him to many cities, including the always-stunning Venice. The amazing and intense battle between Spidey and the water elemental is filmed on location in Venice, so what you see is (kind of) the real city. 

Image of Peter Parker atop Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy
Image from Spider-Man: Far From Home

Okay, so the battle itself was filmed in studios north of London. But the other stuff, traipsing around Venice in taxi-boats, was genuinely in Venice. If you want to show Venice to the kids, this is definitely the better example to give them. 

Read: Aria by Kozue Amano

I love this manga so much! I have been told it is also available in anime (and equally good) but I am yet to watch it. Until then, I am more than happy to soak up the travel vibes from Aria in paper form. 

Aria is a beautiful manga set in Neo-Venezia, a futuristic city on the planet Aqua (formerly known as Mars). This new-age city is modelled on… you guessed it, the ancient city of Venice. The story is a very easy and relaxing read about a young woman, Aria, who is training to be a tour-guide gondolier in Neo-Venezia. And when I say “easy read”, I genuinely mean “this book contains no stress and reads like a relaxing holiday in Venice”. It is like a slice of life set in a future based on space travel but still grounded in everyday things like travel, friendship, and dream-jobs. I adore the visual storytelling, in gorgeous full illustrations as the reader explores Neo-Venezia just like a tourist. It’s essentially a travel guide for a city of the future yet exactly like the city of today. 

Image from Aria Vol.2 by Kozue Amano

Carnivale has always been a celebration of everything you have always wanted to do. While we can’t travel there right now, there are still plenty of opportunities to join the party. See you there!!

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