All you ever wanted to know about Carnival in Milan

What is the Ambrosian Carnival and why is it different from the Roman rites? Keep reading to learn more about a unique tradition in Italy, .

Origins and traditions.

Carnival traditions and celebrations have ancient origins. It possibly has its roots in a primitive festival honouring the beginning of the new year and the rebirth of nature, though it is also possible that the beginnings of Carnival in Italy may be linked to the pagan Saturnalian festival of ancient Rome.

The first day of Carnival varies with both national and local traditions. It also changes every year according to the religious tradition The word “Carnevale” derives from the latin “carnem levare” which means to take away or remove meat.
Ambrosian Carnival is celebrated in Milan, which starts when the Roman one is about to end. In most parts of the Archdiocese of Milan, Carnival lasts four more days, ending on Saturday after Ash Wednesday.

According to the legend, ambrosian carnival tradition dates back to IV century, when the bishop Ambrose of Milan asked his community to wait his return from a pilgrimage.
Actually, the Milanese rite recalls the original roman one. As a matter of fact, till VII century, the long Carnival, “carnevalone” was widespread in all the Italian peninsula.

Traditional mask

Like many Italian cities, Milan has its own typical mask, called Meneghino.
His name is just a diminutive form of “Domenico” as well as a reference to domenichino, a word used in Milan to refer to the servants that were hired only on Sundays (domenica in Italian) by the nobles that couldn’t afford permanent servants.
The character, derived from Commedia dell’arte tradition, is characterized by a strong sense of morality, a great dignity and a good dose of wisdom.

Traditional sweets

Although spread throughout Italy according similar tastes and recipes, every region has its own term to indicate: in Tuscany they are called cenci, grosoli in Friuli, sfrappole Emilia, frappe in Marche, bugie in Piedmont. In Milan they are known as “chiacchiere” and the sweet symbol of Carnival.
They are made with a mixture of flour that is fried and then dusted with powdered sugar.
Very popular throughout Italy are also “frittelle”, either empty or filled with custard, whipped cream and chocolate cream. In Milan they are known as “tortelli”.

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