Carnival is not only a party for the little ones but it is above all a reminder of local traditions. We at Piedmont Delights, making the discovery of traditions our motto, we have traveled all over Piedmont in search of those related to Carnival.
1. What Carnival really is?
Carnival has very ancient roots. It is a feast of Christian origin, which took place the day before the beginning of Lent, a period in which, as per ecclesiastical prescription, it was forbidden to eat meat; the origin of the word Carnival in fact derives from the Latin “carnem levare” or “eliminate meat”.
The Carnival period is in fact between the Epiphany and the day preceding Ash Wednesday (Shrove Tuesday). The first evidence of the “carnival” dates back to around 1400. In several Carnivals, Shrove Tuesday is often represented with a bonfire, the “Carnival death”.
2. The tradition of Carnival in Piedmont
Piedmont is among the most famous regions of Italy for its carnival tradition. Who would have thought it?
This event is so important for our territory that over the years, ad hoc committees and pro loco have been created for the organization, management and coordination of this party.
The main characteristics of Piedmontese carnivals are tradition and historical reinterpretation through celebrations and re-enactments of ancient events.
Throughout the territory, there are 23 events and the municipalities involved are: Asti, Busca, Alessandria, Biella, Borgosesia, Carignano, Chivasso, Crescentino, Domodossola, Ivrea, Mondovì, Novara, Oleggio, Ormea, Rocca Grimalda, Saluzzo, Santhià, Turin, Valdieri, Varallo, Venaria Reale, Vercelli.
3. Not only Giandujia and Giacometta
Every self-respecting Piedmontese carnival event has its protagonist mask, not only Turin with its most famous figures by Giandujia and Giacometta.
The carnival party begins with the handing over of the keys of the city to the protagonist mask, who becomes the owner for the week.
Here we find some of the main masks of Piedmont, to endorse just how important this festival is:
Asti: Spumantino and Barberino
Alessandria: Gagliaudo Aulari
Biella: Gipin, the Catlina
Borgosesia: Peru Magunella and consort Gin Fiammàa
Varallo: Marcantonio Carlavèe and consort Cecca
Santhià: the bride and groom Stevulin ‘dla Plisera and Majutin del Pampardù
Novara: King Biscottino and Queen Cunëta, symbols of the city’s economic well-being
Vercelli: Bicciolano and Bela Majin, figures to whom historically ideals are linked such as the revolt against abuses and the repudiation of harassment
Ivrea: Vezzosa Mugnaia and the General
Oleggio: The Pierin and the Majin
Domodossola: the Togn and the Cia, a young couple of betrothed
4. The carnival sweets
As in all Piedmont and throughout Italy, during Carnival you can find all the most delicious fried desserts, such as chiacchiere, pancakes, apple pancakes, stuffed pancakes, chiacchiere filled with jam or chocolate (ravioli).
All the regions have their characteristic sweets and their names, in Piedmont the Tapit Oleggesi and I Friceau stand out.
Tapits are very simple desserts biscuits with a simple preparation based on flour, sugar, water and ammonia for desserts (ammonium carbonate); this ingredient is often used in confectionery, mainly for the preparation of dry biscuits, as it promotes leavening in a short time and determines the crunchiness of the dessert.
For a sweet tooth, however, we have the Frició or Friceu, a kind of pancake prepared with raisins and lemon zest.
They are distinguished by the proportions of the ingredients, which form a fairly liquid compound. In any case, the form of the friciò is not so much the shape that counts, when the flavor, which in its simplicity is truly special.
5. Where to find the closest Carnival
At this point you just have to mask up and spend a Sunday participating in one of the Carnivals of Piedmont: you will be spoiled for choice!
Take a look at this site, you can find all the carnival events and find the one closest to you: https://www.piemonteinfesta.com/calendario/febbraio.htm