What Do Zorro, a Ladybug, and a Piccolo Cowboy

all have in common? They have each recently been spotted in Catanzaro reeking havoc amongst the Catanzaresi people in preparation for the Carnavale.

Today is Mardi Gras people, or as they would say in Italian, Martedi Grasso. Much like we do back in Southeast Texas, the week leading up to Carnivale is spent attending parades, having parties, and partaking in good-natured, albeit, mischievous behavior.

My Carnivale experience started a few weeks ago when I noticed costumes for sale in the stores. They were not, however, on SALE as discontinued past-season Halloween costumes, and instead of reliving my cultural misinterpretation of the past, I asked Peppe about them. Apparently, the kiddos here in Italy dress up for Carnivale to conceal their true identities, hence the mini Texano walking down the street last night.

This weekend I went to see the Carnivale Parade at Lido with Peppe’s cousin, Luca and his friend, Mario. For a few moments I felt right at home. There was confetti on the streets, music booming, and a lot of good energy in the air. There were, however, many things worth noting that were different from our Mardi Gras celebrations back home.

At one point, the parade stopped moving, and we walked down the street to see the action. What we saw was a stationary Carnivale Float displaying a “dead” man. This was a big attraction. Lots of people…I don’t get it, either.

A little further down the lungomare I heard the Bee Gees bellowing from a different stationary float

Whether you’re a brother
Or whether you’re a mother,
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Feel the city breakin’
And ev’rybody shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha,
Stayin’ alive.
Stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha…..

Nice…but no one was dancing. And, I was dying to teach them “The Hussle!”
No one was throwing beads, and no one was asking to see my, well, you know…
But probably the most noteable difference were the concessions. No one was eating King Cake or drinking a Hurricane. We ate gelato. But I was wild. I had amaretto-flavor..with panna! Hold me back, Mamma!

Though all of these experiences were memorable, one memory I fear will be stamped on my mind for a long, long time. Sunday morning we went to church. About half-way through Mass, I see a flash out of the corner of my right eye. (I don’t have very good perifial vision, folks, so this is saying a lot.) Well, this black spark of movement catches my attention, and evidently, the attention of many other church-goers. As I turn, I see a long black cape flying in the self-made wind of a miniature masked Zorro. He runs, arms spread wide up the center aisle before making an abrupt right turn into his less-than-happy, but appropriately embarassed father. Once Dad has Zorro back in his seat, we hear a loud cry, only to look up and see Mom chasing an 18-month-old Ladybug to the back of the church.

One commonly accepted derivation of the word is the Latin “carne vale” or “farewell to meat.”

And, that is where we are today. Farewell to Friday meat Fest, Farewell to overindulgence of sweets or sodas, or whatever else you choose to forgo for the next 40 days…Farewell to Fantasy…Hello Spring!

6 Responses
  1. j

    I knew they did the famous Carnavale in Venice, but it never occurred to me that they probably do it all over Italy, even Catanzaro. Do adults dress up too like in Venice? Did you dress up and go to any parties? I think you might have more cultural deference than I. I don’t think I could have stood still to the BeeGees.

    Sounds cool. Nice post.

  2. Cherrye

    Yea…it was tough to be still, but I already stick out like a sore thumb! I didn’t see any adults dressed up (or any adult costumes for sale, for that matter,) but there were teenagers wearing “Mardi Gras” masks.

    We didn’t go to any parties, and I didn’t hear of any going on (so Peppe’s friends must not have gone either.)

    I think we “do it up better” in Southeast Texas, but maybe I will know more next year when I understand what is going on.

    Do ya’ll celebrate Mardi Gras in Ohio?

  3. j

    No we don’t celebrate Mardi Gras in Ohio. It’s too bad. I don’t know if it is because we don’t have the ya’ll thing down or if it’s because when there is a foot of snow on the ground and the temperature is in the teens the women don’t respond when we throw the beads.

    The closest thing to it in the Little Italy neighborhood is the Feast of the Assumption in mid August (which we affectiionately refer to as the Feast of the Consumption because that is mainly what goes on). There are parades and fire works and eating and drinking and the general Mardi Gras stuff without the costumes.

  4. Waspgoddess

    What a sweet post. I could so hear Barry Gibb’s squeaky voice (my best friend does a fabulous impression)… did you dance?

    Thanks for visiting my blog, and for leaving a comment. I hope to see you soon again (a presto?)

  5. Jeff Gromen

    Maybe I’m getting old because I’m happy the kids with spray string and foam are finally not roaming the streets every night!!!
    And who’s paying to clean up all that coriandoli, me. E io pago!


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