Carnival in Milan follows the Ambrosian rite
Il Carnevale di Milano is celebrated on the day before the beginning of Lent. Carnival in Milan follows the Ambrosian rite and is celebrated one week after Carnival in Venice which follows the Roman rite.
What is Carnival?
It’s the last day of celebrations before the forty-day period of Lent (a period of penitence and fasting) before Easter. Carne means meat, vale means farewell or goodbye in Latin, hence Carnevale means farewell to meat before the 40 days of Lent. Carnevale was the last day to eat meat and other rich delicacies before abstaining for Lent. Wearing masks and costumes was a way to hide one’s identity, social class, and inhibitions on this day of frolicking festivities.
Carnival falls on a different day each year according to the liturgical calendar. This year, Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, will fall on February 16. The carnival period formally began on January 31st: the Catholic Church in fact sets the Sunday of Septuagesima – about 70 days before Easter Sunday – the beginning of the Time of Septuagesima or Carnival, this year precisely on January 31st. Then on February 11, will be Thursday before Lent, the 14th of February will be the Sunday of Carnival and February 16 will indeed be celebrating Fat Tuesday (mardi gras) which marks its end. The following day is celebrated on Ash Wednesday which opens the period of Lent.
The Ambrosiano Carnival celebrated in Milan starts on the first day of Lent and ends on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday.
Upcoming Carnival dates in Milan
14 – 21 February 2021
27 Feb – 7 March 2022
19- 26 February 2023
Gli Sbandieratori – flag corps marching in Milan Carnival Parade / Wikimedia
Parades & Events
Note: Due to Covid-19 restrictions 2021 parades and events will not be held.
In various locations throughout the city, there are usually events and activities for all, including families and children. Piazza Duomo and the surrounding areas are the main locations for festivities. Street performers, clowns parades and concerts all day and evening long.
The main Milano parade with costumes, jugglers, pantomimes and floats will start from I Giardini Publici, Palestro, Piazza San Babila, Corso Europa, Piazza Fontana ending in Piazza Cesare Beccaria (near Piazza Duomo)
Traditional masks and costumes
Traditional costumes at the Milan Carnival Parade / Wikimedia
Menghino and his wife La Cecca, characters invented by burlesque comedy play-write Carlo Maria Maggi. Meneghino was the term used for sixteenth-century Milanese butlers who accompanied noblemen and women in their carriages. They became symbols of the honest, hard-working, joyful Milanese.
Meneghino (pronounced men-eh-GHEE-no)
What to eat at Carnival
A light pastry fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar or glazed with chocolate. You can find them in any and every bakery or pastry shop at Carnival time.
Bugie di Carnevale
Bugie di Carnevale – Bugie means “lies” . These are fluffy, fried pastry filled with pastry cream and sprinkled with sugar.
What to say
There is no formal expression for Carnival, people say “Buon Carnevale” Happy Carnival or simply “Auguri“, Best Wishes. The main thing is to have a bit of fun- “Divertiti!”
Article by C. Abernethy