words and pics about living and raising a child in Venice
Ah, the photographs are everything, aren't they? Do you think the little girl feels she got short-changed in the costume hand-out?
I think the girl was from a tourist family who was taking a photo with the elaborately costumed folks going to one of the expensive fancy dress balls. But, really, except for small children who live here and run around campi throwing confetti, there's very little to Carnevale besides dressing up and posing for pics. There are a smattering of activities, some of which might be appreciated by residents (such as a guided tour of the city archives in Italian), but otherwise there's just the fancy dress balls for tourists, the daily costume competition on the big stage for tourists, and tourists enjoying themselves walking around in costumes & being photographed in them. The cultural significance of a festival disappears when there is no resident population to participate in it, and so Carnevale has in Venice. It generally appears more lively in photos than it is in person--no one would confuse it with either Rio or New Orleans.
But, to be fair, I can think of many many places in the world in which mere spectacle--snapshot backdrops--has replaced anything like a living experience grounded in place and culture.
One last note: every Venetian I've ever spoken to about Carnevale says that upon its rebirth in 1979 after a long absence it was embraced by residents--people tell me about how office workers or bank tellers would go to work in costume. But the combination of a dwindling population with Carnevale's removal from the control of grassroot organizations responsible for its rebirth to the tourist-oriented businesses/organizations wiped out that initial widespread enthusiasm. (Of course one might note that back in the 18th C Carnevale was also largely oriented toward non-residents, but the city's population and social/economic fabric of that era bears no resemblance to today's.)
So sad, really, to feel that Carnevale is so far from what it once was, that celebration of life before Lent. I've never actually been in Venice itself during Carnevale, close before, and after, but never actually there, but I'd rather got the feeling it was almost all tourists who had brought elaborate outfits with them or hired them, parading about to be seen and photographed. That tour of the Archives sounds fascinating, but I'm sure I couldn't manage it in Italian, despite my efforts. Thanks yet again.