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A Broad, Abroad: Alcoholic holiday brings out broccoli monsters

By Michaela Papa, Columnist

This past weekend I went to Carnevale in Venice. Absolute insanity. If Disney World, Halloween in New York City and those movies about drugs that everybody had to watch in middle school got together, their bastard child would come out looking something like Carnevale.

Mardi Gras, literally meaning Fat Tuesday, is essentially the same as Carnevale. The festivities of Carnevale are a celebratory precursor to the beginning of the Lenten season. The word "carnevale" comes from the Latin words "carnem levare," meaning to remove meat. No alcohol or meat was to be consumed. The original concept of Carnevale was to facilitate concealing identities behind a whimsical and elaborate mask. With hidden faces the upper class was allowed to mingle amongst the commoners. By mingle, I mean they typically indulged in gluttonous consumption of forbidden goods, and had many an affair with lower classes and illicit lovers.

The very concept of Venice is mind-boggling. It is made up of 117 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea. There are no vehicles of any sort allowed on Venice. The roads are all waterways—subsequently, the ambulances are boats, the police are boats, the taxis are boats, and the wedding procession limousines are boats. The entire concept for the island seemed very fictitious to me. Venice: where Bikini Bottom meets Sims. Originally, the people wanted a place to escape attackers, and thus they fled to Venice. When the island proved too small, they simply built more islands…and more islands and more islands.

Of the 117 small islands that make up Venice, there are a total of about 272,000 inhabitants. Typically, Venice gets about 50,000 tourists a day…this number is nothing compared to the amount of crazed people attending Carnevale. There was a literal current of people. A crazy, costumed, crowded current of Carnevalians. Insanity. Absolute insanity.

In the 18th century Carnevale gained popularity in Venice, and lasted for six weeks! I legitimately couldn't handle two days of the mayhem…I cannot fathom six weeks of Carnevale. In order to further flourish the Venetian culture, Carnevale was revived in the 1980s.

During the day the streets were filled with spectators and various people dressed up. I saw several people in full Victorian-age garb, a gang of squid and/or penises, a giant broccoli monster/lizard, and a seven foot pig…and these were of the more normal costumes I saw. Everybody was in the Carnevale spirit. Typically, consumption of alcohol was not to take place, though I'm pretty sure about most of the people I saw were very very drunk, the sober percentage being children under the age of three.

Overall, Carnevale was absurd, though I'm rather glad to say I experienced it all. Everything about Carnevale seemed very traditional, despite it's more modern rejuvenation and it's devil-may-care shenanigans.

There is even food typical to Carneval. I tried the "frittelle di riso", a typical treat for the celebration. It is literally balls of rice that are fried. The outside is like that of a glazed Munchkin and covered in sugar, though the inside is the consistency of boogers and tastes faintly of lemon. Though bizarre, they weren't unenjoyable. I had several. This year was the first year I celebrated Mardi Gras/Carnevale to any extent. Though, in Italy I believe every Tuesday to be Fat Tuesday…also there's a Fat Wednesday and Thursday and….

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