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It’s Carnival Time!

Here in Italy is Carnival again: confetti, colorful customs, parades and FUN!

While I’m definitely a Christmas person, I’ve always liked Carnival but I was the only one in the family who loved it so as a child I only got to enjoy it at school.

My classmates and I went to school wearing our costumes and we waited for “Gianduja and Giacometta”. I was born in Turin, in Northern Italy and Gianduja is the traditional Piedmontese mask. He’s a happy man who loves wine, food and beautiful girls but is faithful to his lovely Giacometta. Giacometta is a brave and practical woman, always ready to help people to solve their problems; she is strong, kind and generous.

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When they arrived at our school we all were so thrilled and couldn’t wait to receive our special Gianduja candy: it was a simple round hard candy made of sugar wrapped in paper representing Gianduja, it came in many sizes and the image on the wrap could change but not its hexagonal shape.

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After their visit we had a little party in our classroom and and we ate “bugie” (literally “lies”), sweet crisp deep fried pastries sprinkled with powdered sugar which are also known as “chiacchiere” (chatters) and other names througout Italy.

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On the Sunday before Shrove tuesday there was usually a parade and all the children went our wearing costumes and throwing confetti at passers­by.

Although on of the most famous Carnival in Italy is the Venice one, most cities in Italy have their own parade and traditional masks such as Pulcinella, Arlecchino, Balanzone and Pantalone just to name a few.

Now that I am a mom I can finally enjoy Carnival again with my little girl, I love making her costumes and usually I make something for me. This year she’s requested to go as Hermione Granger while I’ll go as a clown and I can’t wait to wear my curly turquoise wig 🙂

Carnival is usually more popular in Chatolic countries as it preceds Lent, the 40 days period before Easter and while in Italy we love Carnival, we are certainly not the only ones in Europe and in the world!

If you are traveling to Germany don’t miss the Cologne Carnival; it’s one of the largest Carnival in the world and is officially opened on the “Eleventh in the Eleventh”, 11 November, at “eleven minutes past eleven”. The street “crazy days” carnival starts on Fat thursday with the Women Carnival.

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Fancy a French Carnival? Then go to Nice; every year there’s a different theme and artists work to create 18 floats and other figures using papier mache that you will enjoy during the parades that take place day and night for non­stop fun!

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Planning a vacation on one of the Canary Islands? Choose Tenerife! In Santa Cruz de Tenerife you will be amazed by the parade that opens the festivities in the streets of Santa Cruz on the Friday before Carnival. It lasts until Ash Wednesady when the “burial of the sardine” is celebrated.

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Outside Europe one of the most famous Carnival is the New Orleans “Mardi Gras”; there are usually many parades with dancers, music and floats. The float riders toss “throws” to the crowd. The throws are usually wooden dollar coin, small plastic toys and plastic beads.

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The biggest and world famous carnival of them all is the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro; revelers, floats and adornments participate in the many parades that take place during the Carnival period occupying the streets of the city with as much as 300 “bandas” taking place at any given point in time!

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What about other countries where there are no Carnival parades?

You could still throw a party at home or a masquerade ball but if it’s too much work then just have pancakes!

In UK, Canada, Australia and Ireland in fact Shrove Tuesday is also know as Pancake Day because pancakes require fat, sugar and eggs that must be cleared out of the cupboard before Lent, the period of abstinence before Easter.

Pancake Day in Britain

An easy and fantastic recipe to enjoy with sugar and lemon or – my favorite – strawberry and whipped cream.

Need a recipe? Try this one by Jamie Olivier!