Carnival, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday; whatever you choose to call it, the last day before the start of Lent, the 40 days of repentance is famous to bring out the wild side of millions of people all over the world. In fact, in many countries, locals are known to spend over a month taking to the streets, parading, donning Venetian masks, and partying late into the wee hours of the morning.
Venice, Rio and New Orleans are just some of the many popular destinations in the world that tempt you to put your masks for masquerade balls and have some sinful fun!
• Mardi Gras – New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Thousands of tourists and locals are able to have ball of a time in New Orleans, when the city is known to loosen is reins a little and douse itself with limitless strings of beads, festive costumes and eye catching floats. The city is known to host some of the most spectacular parades starting 2 weeks prior to Mardi Gras.
• Carnival of Binche – Binche, Beglium
In Binche, it is considered to be great honor for a man to be selected to join the Gilles on Shrove Tuesday each year. Gilles are essential clown like performances who wear plumed hats, wax masks and colorful costumes. They are known to start dancing around the city during the wee hours of the morning and continue doing so late into the night.
• Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
This region comes with a rich and vibrant history with French roots. The Carnival is considered to be one of the most important celebrations of the year. The Monday and Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday is the time when thousands of locals flock the streets to show off their elaborate costumes that may have taken months to finish. Complete with traditional Venetian masks and a range of events such as a competition for the title of ‘the Band of the Year’ and the ‘Calypso Monarch’, visiting this Caribbean treasure during Carnival is a experience worth having.
• Carnival of Brazil – Rio de Jeneiro, Brazil
There is absolutely no Carnival celebration in the world that can compete with the atmosphere that is created in Rio de Jeneiro during the festivals. Brazilians are known to takes their weeks before Lent extremely seriously. This means that you get a chance to witness some of the largest and most elaborate parades. Just 2 years ago, it was estimated that 5 million people attended the Carnival in Brazil. For some high-octane partying, Rio de Jeneiro is the place to be.
• Mardi Gras – Sydney, Australia
A rather underrated Carnival destination, the city makes the most of this festival to support the LGBT community. The evening parade down Oxford and Flinders streets are worth watching. You must also make time to attend the drag races on Bondi Beach, the sunset cruise and the harbor-side dance party.
Other unlikely contenders but equally exciting Carnival destinations include the Notting Hill Carnival, London; the Quebec Winter Carnival, Quebec City and the Carnival celebrations in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Venetian Masks have long been used as an elegant display item in households around the world.
If you have your own collection of these masks, but are yet to display it, this article will help you gain a creative perspective for your home décor.
Read on to find new ideas on where the masks can be displayed and how the look of your home can be enhanced with these beauties.
On Your Patio
Especially suited for an outdoorsy look is Moon Venetian Masks. Hang them over a seating area or even place them on a center table for an exotic teatime look. They go well with not only wooden backgrounds but even in a grassy area.
On a Bare Wall in your Living Room/Den
What better way of doing it than putting up Venetian masks on a bare wall or den? If you feel more adventurous, you can experiment with long flowing fabrics like velvet and brocade which can adorn the mask as drapes. All you need to do is drill some holes for the mask and fabric to give the mysterious aura of times that once were. This gives an enchanting effect and a unique new look to your existing wall.
Remember that the mask needs to be the center of attention and the fabrics and colors you choose should not overpower it.
On A Wooden Chest
When you look at a wooden chest or treasure chest, you instantly think of royalty. If you have a chest at home or plan to procure one for a prominent corner of your house, Moon venetian masks make a great addition to portray a historical feel and add charm to your room.
How to Display them?
Once you have identified a place for your masks, make sure the way in which you display them is also appealing.
- Consider tying the back of your mask into a bow with the help of an elegant ribbon. Use this to hang your mask from a hook or on a nail on a wall in your home.
- You can also get your mask placed in an exquisite shadowbox that is made out of a wooden frame and a clear glass. You can find these in various sizes in any framing or crafting store.
- A very creative way to display your elegant mask is by placing it on the head of a mannequin. If you own a fashion boutique or furniture store of your own, this is a great way to draw attention to various sections of yur store.
Masks should be displayed in a place from which it can be appreciated. Remember, you need to pick a place that will compliment the mask as well as enhance the area that displays it.
In use since the early 12th century, Venetian masks were the people’s answer to the rigid class structure that existed in Europe; a way for lovers to unite, for partners to be promiscuous, for homosexuals to unite in a societal structure that equalled them with demons and women to dress boldly.
In a wealthy Venice where money flowed free like the water through its canals, pleasures of life were easier to come by than freedom and this included the freedom of thought and its expression. The mask also came to be used to strike secret business deals and to carry out spy work. With Venetians ‘masking’ their lives completely, it came to be worn every day becoming their “anonymous chat ID”, if you will.
The modern reference to such masks in the famous film Eyes Wide Shut was, thus, not wary off the mark when Tom Cruise infiltrates a masquerade ball where men of influence were engaging in ‘sexcapades’. While the Venetian mask featuring in the film made them a sudden rage the world over, putting the spot light on the almost forgotten art, the news of their use was no more novel than love itself.
Early mentions of the Venetian masks reinforce mischievous uses it was put to. The Venetian Law itself mentions masked men throwing scented eggs at ladies during the carnival, an act which was prohibited by law.
The antics of the Venetians carried on until the 1100s when the Church banned its use on holy days in hope that this would check people’s immoral behaviour. The ban restricted the masks’ use to a small period starting December 26. Over time, this further got cut down to a week-long period, when Venetians indulged in the run up to Lent, called Carnevale.
Though intending to curtail debauchery, the ban gave birth to one of the most intriguing festivals, “The Carnival of Venice”, where art is celebrating in a week-long orgy of master craftsmanship.
The modern times may have led mask makers to create experimental masks in keeping with changing tastes. Popular traditional disguises in early Venice included the fisherman with a rod, demon, butcher, doctor, sailor and even a dancing bear. However, one of the most popular and beautiful was the moon Venetian masks.
In both Pagan and in Christian semiotics, the moon has been representative of the female form and the sun of the masculine, other than in Germany where it is the opposite. The moon also symbolizes the lovers seeking to hide in the lunar shadows. Thus, it stands as a favourite among the young.
These moon masks and the sun masks, both full-face and half are the most ornamental and delicately carved of all.
Traditionally made of paper mache, clay, porcelain and glass, the Venetian masks are today made of every conceivable material. On a stick or full-face, simply white or flambouyant gold and feathery; master craftsman can chisel something for everyone to unleash the masquerader within.
Venetian masks have been traditionally used in Venice for many years. They were mainly worn during the Carnival of Venice, though now they’re used on many other occasions too. These could range from fun parties to romantic purposes where identities need to be kept a secret. Sometimes masks are used by elements wishing to remain anonymous in their private activities.
These masks can be made of porcelain, leather, acrylic and many other materials. Originally, they were designed quite simply without too many decorations. Most often, they served some practical or symbolic function. Nowadays, a large number of masks are hand-painted and natural feathers and gems are used for adornment. Some are created using leaves of fine golden sheets. In fact, the sky is the limit as far as decorations are concerned.
Venetian masks come in various shapes, sizes and in a variety of colours to suit individual preferences. Some can be perched daintily on your head so as to cover only a part of your face so as to offer just a suggestion of suspense. Others can cover your entire head including the back of your head as well as your complete face keeping your identity completely incognito.
These masks are classical ones that you will relate to instantly. They have been used in the theatrical arts to represent both tragic and comic characters. These masks leave a lot to a viewer’s imagination and allow complete anonymity. They allow the wearer to act in a free manner, especially in cases where he wishes to interact with members of society who are outside bounds as per everyday conventions.
Full face masks are quite comfortable when worn and are often used at Halloween parties. If the wearer wishes to appear a bit shady, he can couple the mask with a three cornered hat. The addition of a dark cloak can add an aura of mystery and make the attire complete.
There are various names given to the categories of full face masks. Some of them are “Larva” meaning “Ghost””, “Volto” meaning “Face” and the most well-known is the “Pierrot” which indicates a simple-minded and honest servant.
Full face masks are often decorated with different types of jewels and fabrics decorated with silver or gold strings. The inclusion of colourful silk ribbons to hold them in place adds to their attraction. You can choose from a variety of designs and colour schemes. Masks can be enamel-covered, glossy black with white, silver or gold trimmings made of silver or gold macramé, the list is endless… You’ll be spellbound by full-faced feather masks having bright feathers of all colours of the rainbow surrounding the mask face. Some masks offer a ferocious facade with bright red, maroon or tan tiger masks.
For those who do not like wearing something heavy, there’s an option of going in for lightweight masks made using the ancient technique of papier-mâché. Layers of paper and plaster result is a lightweight base that contours the wearer’s face and soft velvet lining provides comfort on the inner side.
In addition to being worn for fun purposes, masks are often used as exquisite ornaments and wall adornments. So if you want to gift a friend with something, unique, you now have a new option!
The origin of the Venetian masks and the masquerade balls goes back to the 13th century although they became predominant emblems of “Carnevales” of the 17th century Venice. In a society ruled by the conservative church, which condemned all sorts of flippancies, the masquerade balls and masks were great means of indulging in those very unsavory acts without revealing the gender, or identity of the wearers.
Today, masquerade balls are still held for extolling different occasions and getting together for indulging in fun tinged with mystery and magic. Here are some of the things you would need to consider for arranging a masquerade ball party.
Preparation- Budget, Theme and Invitee List: You need to plan your budget in accordance with the number of guests you will be inviting, the food as well as decorations. Compare quotations from a few caterers and check out their food samples to see if they appeal to your taste buds.
To curtail on professional decoration costs, get some friends to assist you in adorning the venue. Pick out a venue or banquet hall in tune with the size of the event that you will be hosting. Your theme can be anything dependent on the occasion such as Halloween, New Year’s Eve, Easter, Mardi Gras or Gothic.
Send out Invitations: You can don the creative hat and send out invitations to your friends in a unique way by either dressing up with Jester or Moretta masquerade ball masks or by writing down the specifics of costume, time and venue in some plastic masks which come quite cheap. Do not forget to add a line which evokes a sense of mystery in the mind of your guests.
Costumes: Although you might have been cautious enough to mention about costumes and masks for the party, it is likely that some of your guests may simply forget. So keep some spare ones with yourself and adorn them with fun themes like jesters and cats along with feather, tiaras and sequins as accents. You can yourself add a distinct touch to your own attire by painting your mask with scintillating black and golden paint and make-up instead of wearing one.
Decoration: The decorations will depend on the theme you have picked up. Do it up with balloons, feathers, beads, streamers, and other colorful stuff and do not forget to spruce up with Venetian masks here and there. Use the right kind of lighting and colors with dominant hues being black, golden and red.
Activities and Entertainment: Activities form a conspicuous part of parties and to keep your guests entertained to the lees – arrange for activities like a costume parade, inviting jugglers and magicians and culminate the show with a grand ball dance.
Food: The gourmet spread should also be in tune with your party theme with decorated cakes, meats and loads of cheeses.
A last tip- for ensuring that your party turns out to be the talk of the town, be organized and start planning a month or two before.