Finita la Festa…

February 19, 2015 / Events

That is not snow, but Carnevale detritus. Throughout town every crack in the sidewalks and space between cobblestones have become the final resting places for coriandoli, the colorful paper bits that parents buy by the sackful during Carnevale for children to throw at one other by the handful.

In these images, the children’s play area of a local square in Rome shows the signs of a veritable Carnevale “battlefield” of epic proportions that only ended a few days ago on Martedi’ Grasso.


Now, whether the children and their families will observe Lent or not, it is still interesting to think that they are unwittingly following the cadence of a pre-Christian, pre-Roman, agro-pastoral calendar.

As mentioned in previous notes, the pig makes its most-definitive and irreversible contribution to the family larder in mid to late January when the weather is coldest, this to minimize the risk of the meat going bad during its handling due to lack of refrigeration. Those parts that would definitely spoil no matter what were obviously consumed over the following weeks. This created a brief mid-winter window of abundance (Festa!!), perfect timing given the cold and extra calories needed. Yet the “pig” had to last the entire year, and so families would case and cure most of the meat, a process which in effect deferred its consumption, creating a de facto period of fasting. (Carnem levare, Latin for “removing or eliminating meat.”)


How long a “removal” period? Well, it’s best to let the meats cure for about 30 to 50 days. That’s an average of exactly 40 days. Hmm… sounds familiar.

Anyhow, what the kids intuitively learn, is that for now, until Easter of course, la festa e’ finita. (The party/holiday/celebration is over.)



by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

9 Responses to “Finita la Festa…”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    A marvellous patterns of life piece, GB. The playground reminds me of Piazza del Plebiscito, Napoli, immediately after Martedì Grasso Рit was hard to imagine how all those bits and pieces could ever be swept up!

  2. Catherine Wilkinson

    I wonder … do the children still dress up as mascherini with rubber bats all over Rome during the lead up to MardiGras? It has been 35 years since I lived there.

  3. Interesting bit of information. However, 40 is quite a common number in the Bible be it 40 years wandering, 40 days , etc., used often to express ‘a long time’. I have no idea whether in other European countries, the time for the curing of meat was the reason for the 40 days of Lent. Of course, Lent was also a time of fasting and abstinence possible due also to the fact that in winter, there are fewer options, food wise. Certainly there must be many theories or studies on this subject.


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