Melancholy days, those of February: days when things sink and merge into a uniform gray. And suddenly the colors and the clamor of the Carnival in an unbridled joy that seems to reflect a liberating motion of the soul oppressed by the bad season.
Il Carnival, Goethe said "it is not a feast that is offered to the people, but a feast that the people offer to themselves": a party in which the world turns upside down, servants and masters, kings and plebs, handsome and ugly, wise and foolish exchange roles and everything becomes lawful, dominated as it is by the laws of experience and excess.
Excesses which in all Latin countries are mainly food. It is no coincidence that the almost universally accepted etymology of the name of the festival is its derivation from Latin carnem upbeat, eliminate meat, as if the binge of sweets and pork preludes the time of purification which coincided with Lent and the beginning of the new season. Almost a way of consuming in a moment, in a food orgy, the provisions of the past year, in the moment in which the hibernating earth had not yet produced the tender buds, omen of rich crops, and a period of fasting began ritually sanctioned by the Church.
This is why the historical roots of the Carnival sink in Roman Saturnalia - the feasts in honor of Saturn, the god who had taught men agriculture - which took place in the same period and whose propitiatory and purifying rites marked the beginning not only of the new seasonal cycle but of the new year. In classical antiquity, in fact, this began on the first of March, the time of the cosmic rebirth that just preceded the spring equinox.
So in every Carnival, with its cortege of Masks with magical and mysterious values that refer to demonic figures, to the souls of the deceased, to evil spirits, to the god of vine and wine Dionysus triumphantly seated on his chariot, to the killing of the "Carnival king", the "feast of the belly" triumphs , the myth ofbinge at any cost, a sort of compensation for the daily hunger already suffered and for the ritual of the now imminent Lent.
Carnival of noisy sarabands, Carnival of fires lit to drive away ghosts and evil spirits, Carnival of triumphal floats of Abundance, whose symbolic figures are loaded with food ornaments. Carnival of battles of eggs, oranges, turnips and sugared almonds - all then homologated in multicolored paper confetti, Carnival of dumplings and soups rich in meat and offal, of fried and stuffed pasta, Carnival of sugar and honey, of zeppole and berlingozzi, cannoli and cicerchiate.
The king is dead, the king is alive.