The historical Carnivals of the Piceno

Carnival, after centuries, continues to be a particular moment of the year. In some locations of the Piceno as Offida, Ascoli Piceno, Castignano, Umito di Acquasanta, still represents the upheaval of everyday life and the liberation of euphoria.

Tradition of  historical Carnivals of the Piceno

Carnival is a festival of ancient date, which probably derives its origin from the saturnali, a festival in honour of Saturn, god of the sowings, celebrated in ancient Rome from 17 to 23 December.

The festival included a sacrifice in the temple of divinity, then banquets and real orgies. From the Middle Ages onwards the news related to the carnival describe it as one of the most important festivals of the year and common to most of Europe.

The Carnival began in January or even at the end of December and continued until Lent.

Celebrated outdoors, in the squares and in the main streets of the city that were transformed into a real stage where the protagonists were the people who, with masks, danced and sang. Shows, competitions, rides and tournaments were staged.


Many games were based on the figures of the ” Carnival “, personified by a cheerful fat man, ruddy and pot-bellied surrounded by sausages, poultry and rabbits sitting on a barrel, and ” Lent”   who, on the contrary, looked like a nasty old woman, dressed in black and surrounded by fish.

The Carnival represented a period of institutionalized disorder: what was usually thought only could be said with impunity and the social and natural order of things was subverted through the reversal of relationships, giving life to the “reversed world”.

In some prints of the sixteenth century the world upside down is represented as the poor who becomes king, the wife who beats her husband, the ass that is on the back of the owner, the mouse that eats the cat.

For the rich people, the Carnival, was considered a relief valve for the subordinate class, which freed their wrath at this time with a sort of controlled social protest, and then returned to order from Lent onwards.

The carnival themes

There were three themes of carnival: food, sex and violence.

The food was certainly more obvious, given that the etymology of the word carnival takes its cue from the “carne”” meat” ( carnevale). Banquet were celebrated in which there were huge binge of meat, fritters accompanied by wine.

The theme of sex was developed through songs with double meanings, performances of phallic objects as well as intense sexual activity.

The violence theme took the form of verbal aggression and by killing animals.

The most important scholars of popular culture find in the Carnival more meanings: the double opposition between Carnival and Lent, time of fat and time of skinny, between the world upside down, the daily world and a propitiatory ritual for the harvest.

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