Massafra Carnival

Massafra Carnival
The Massafra Carnival (Carnevale di Massafra) is one of the oldest carnival celebrations in Italy and arguably the entire Europe. It is considered the most important event in the region of Apulia. The carnival season in Massafra starts in mid-January and ends on Shrove Tuesday.

Massafra is a relatively small town located in the province of Taranto. It is known for its castle, 16th-century church, natural reserves, numerous rock settlements, and annual carnival. The Carnival of Massafra begins on January 17, the feast day of Saint Anthony. On this day, local farmers brought their cattle to the traditional ceremony of the blessing of domestic animals.

From January 17 onwards, the most important festive events are held every Thursday and every Sunday. They include colorful parades, parties, dancing and singing, masked balls, and more. All guests are treated to grilled sausages which are a local specialty. There’s also plenty of delicious local wine.

Each Thursday of the carnival season has its own name and theme: the Thursday of the monks, the Thursday of the priests, the Thursday of the married, the Thursday of the fools (or the Thursday of the young). The first Thursday of Lent is known as the Thursday of the poor or the Thursday of the widows. Each of the carnival Thursdays has its specific traditions. For example, on the Thursday of the young public lighting is switched off and all streets are dark. Young people dressed in costumes and wearing masks go from door to door, singing and shouting.

Extravagant floats are one of the Carnival’s main attractions. At the Massafra Carnival, most floats are made of papier-mâché. The participants begin constructing them about 4 or 5 month in advance. Papier-mâché allows to create very large carnival floats accommodating several dozen people and impressive sculptures. There are only two parades featuring floats because the weather is usually rainy during this time of the year and papier-mâché isn’t a water-resistant material.

The parades are usually held on the last Sunday of the Carnival season and on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras). They feature spectacular floats, performers and costumed characters wearing masks. At the Carnival of Massafra, the parade route isn’t fenced off so that the participants can interact with the audience, encouraging local residents and tourists to join along.

The parade held on Shrove Tuesday is followed by the Carnival King funeral procession and the burning of the effigy symbolizing the King of the Massarfa Carnival. After that, the festivities are over and Lent begins.

Massafra Carnival

Photo by Tarantino Vincenzo




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