Carnival in Acireale, Sicily
To: Tuesday, March 05, 2019
Although the exact origin of Acireale’s Carnival in Sicily isn’t known, most believe that like all Italian Carnivals, it probably derived from the ancient Roman Saturnal Games. The first written documents of its existence are however very old, dating back to 1594. In the past, people used to dress in masks and go into the streets throwing oranges at each other in a traditional battle. However, due to too many injuries the tradition was banned in the middle part of the 17th century. After the devastating earthquake of 1693, the carnival was suspended for a very long time and resumed only 40 years later. But it was in the 19th century that it took on the particular identity that characterizes it nowadays- the papier-mâché floats. A craftsmanship that had been done for centuries in Acireale, became the main attraction in 1880. Beginning in 1930, the floats began their evolution to include intricate floral arrangements.
The Third Largest Carnival in Italy
Over the following years, the Carnival of Acireale had grown and expanded so much that it began to attract more and more crowds of visitors not only from Sicily (where it’s been named “The Most Beautiful Carnival of Sicily” — video here) but also from Italy and from Europe. Between the end of the 1970s and the 1990s, it was the third most important Italian Carnival after Venice and Viareggio. Over time it has lost its title to many other Carnivals (for example, Ivrea, Cento, Putignano and, in Sicily, those of Sciacca and Misterbianco). In the 2000s, the Acireale Carnival was enhanced with technology: LED lights were added, as well as computerized movements of the allegorical masks, and the papier-mâché process was modernized. All of these contemporary modifications have made the floats truly spectacular. These moving floral giants each consist of over 13,000 real flowers (geraniums, mainly), and include computerized movements.
The Carnival of Acireale Today
The floats are prepared throughout the year by specialized cultural associations, almost all family-run, in Acireale’s citadel. They’ve been dedicated to the recently deceased historic papier-mâché maestro, Giovanni Coco, who passed away because he was so passionate about his craft he wouldn’t even set it aside long enough to properly take care of himself. The current carnival association has decided to divide the festival into three different seasonal events: February 17- March 5, 2019 allegorical papier-mâché floats; spring (dates to be announced) only the flowered floats; and in August (dates to be announced) all the winners of the previous parades.
This year’s Carnival promises big entertainment and tons of events! Visit the official website for complete program details.
Photos by Grazia MusumeciG. Musumeci
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