The Venice Carnevale is starting in earnest this weekend, and the New York Times has published a slideshow to remind us of the event. It has been celebrated on and off throughout the ages, in different ways and intensity.
The word carnevale comes from the Latin for "goodbye, meat!". As Lent (which begins on Ash Wednesday) obliged people to fast, all meat, butter and eggs had to be consumed during the period up to Ash Wednesday . This religious formality became the excuse for a party that echoed pagan festivities. The eighteenth century was the heyday of Carnival, and Venice's decline in power was accompanied by a conspicuous consumption of pleasure.