La Darbia blog

Semel in anno licet insanire

Mon, 6 February 2017
Semel in anno licet insanire
That's exactly what the ancient Romans used to say to justify going a little crazy and being carried away by the infectious euphoria at Carnival time. It still features foremost these days among Italian traditions, a lively, carefree festival, organized in many towns and cities between February ..

That's exactly what the ancient Romans used to say to justify going a little crazy and being carried away by the infectious euphoria at Carnival time.

It still features foremost these days among Italian traditions, a lively, carefree festival, organized in many towns and cities between February and March in the month prior to Lent. The most famous celebrations of all are those of Venice and Viareggio together with the papier maché masks of Cento and the Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, historical displays and performances which attract tourists from all over the world.

The towns around Lake Orta also present festival processions with floats and carriages, traditional and irreverent masks, music, dance and banquets. Open air parades and evening parties are organized on Sundays and Shrove Tuesday while dishes of polenta and “salamini”, cooked coarse sausages, are served and eaten standing in the square amid confetti, to the sound of the town band playing in an atmosphere of cheerful bustle.
Every town elects its own king or queen, a powerful figure who reigns supreme for the time being, whereas the masks representing a given place evoke the folklore and traditions of the past.
It is, indeed, said that every kind of tomfoolery is excused at Carnival because it is a time of indiscipline when rules are bent, jokes are played and joy is unrestrained.

In the Middle Ages, Carnival was a time for indulgent overeating and infinite dances. The ' king of Carnival' guaranteed wild fun and the temporary renunciation of law, order and virtue. Social roles were inverted: men dressed up as women and vice versa, the poor as rich and the rich as beggars or jesters.
Things are still the same: we can all go back to being children by donning a colourful, high-spirited costume on a day that signals light-heartedness and heralds the arrival of spring.

Let me greet all the friends of La Darbia by quoting the famous lines of a worthy Renaissance gentleman, Lorenzo il Magnifico, who commemorated Carnival with the following words:

«quant’è bella giovinezza
che si fugge tuttavia
chi vuol esser lieto sia
del doman non c’è certezza
»

(How beautiful our Youth is//That’s always flying by us!//Who’d be happy, let him be so://Nothing’s sure about tomorrow.)

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