Languages@Muhlenberg.edu
Newsletter 2004
Carnevale!
Traditional Bauta Costume
     Expressing his sentiments about a visit to Italy, Goethe wrote, “Here one is reborn. The most ordinary person becomes somebody…” That is exactly what one could say about Carnevale, although this phenomenon is not exclusive to Italy.
      The word carnevale probably comes from the Latin expression “carnem valet” or “the triumph of the flesh.” Its origins are lost in time, but it probably is an offshoot of the Roman festivities known as Saturnalia, Lupercalia, and Bacchanalia that were celebrated in ancient Rome to alleviate the doldrums of winter and as propitiatory ceremonies for the upcoming rebirth of nature. In the Christian calendar, Carnevale marks a final moment of abandon, the final chance to eat, drink, and make merry before the solemn time of reflection that is Lent.
     In different places, at different times, Carnevale has taken different forms of expression. In Europe, and especially in Italy, there are colorful parades and competitions in which politicians and events are ridiculed or satirized.
     Venice is the Carnevale city par excellence. There the celebration takes place during the two weeks before Lent. The city fills with people from all of Europe, people in disguises and beautiful costumes. It is a true feast for the eyes and a phantasmagoria of colors without parallel. At the many gatherings and masked balls a prince can appear as a pauper and a pauper as a prince. During Carnevale, the most ordinary person can become somebody.
     This year an ordinary Tuesday became something extraordinary as Muhlenberg celebrated its first Carnevale. With generous support from the Chapel, tropical music from DJ Misael García, a special selection of Mardi Gras foods, and costumes ranging from the elegant masks of Professor Santa Zanchettin and her Italian students to the painted faces and animal noses found in any respectable Hispanic carnaval, our celebration brought together a diverse crowd of cultures and traditions. Carnival Tuesday closed with a new take on the traditional burial of the sardine, a symbolic end of silliness and start of the more serious Lenten season. We hope to bring our gaily dressed sardine back for another wild cavort next year!