An Italian Festival That is a Reflection of the Country's Unique Culture

Italy claims to have more festivals than any other country in the world. And chances are that on any given day of the week an Italian festival honoring someone or some event is happening! The festivals range from the Florentine Festival of Calcio Storico to the street parades and masked balls of Carnivale', to the annual Venice Film Festival, which is an Italian Film Festival that continues to garner more and more attention each year.

Among the most celebrated events in Italy are Carnival in Venice, the Italian Film Festival, Capo d'Anno, Epiphany Eve and Domenica Delle Palme.

The most prominent Italian festival may be Carnavale' (Carnival in Venice), originated from a significant victory of Repubblica della Serenissima in 1162. To commemorate the victory, numerous reunions and dances were arranged in the San Marino Square, which has been the traditional place for the festival's celebrations. Owing to the multicultural character of the city, the festival grew to comprise a wide variety of events. Hidden beneath a mask, elegantly dressed the visitors of the festival took traditional promenade in Campo Santo Stefano, the original place for the great Italian festival. Because of the small size of Campo Santo Stefano, the festival had to move to San Marino Square.

Until the XIX century, "chasing" was very popular during carnival time in Venice. It was accepted from the first day and the last Sunday of the Carnival. The first Carnival in Venice took place from December 26 till the Ash Wednesday. The Carnival gained much of its popularity since 1980, when people all over the world started attending public and private masked balls. The festival features theatrical performances, ancient games and endless music and dancing. The 2005 Carnival of Venice took place in San Marino Square on February 4. It was held in the spirit of decadence and illusion, giving the possibility to escape reality and indulge in fantasy. And if it's one thing Italian needed it was this!

Capo d'Anno or New Year's Day is an Italian festival, which enjoys wide popularity. It is celebrated with all kinds of festivities, including services in churches, visits and parties. There is a tradition to send bouquets of mistletoe to friends and relatives, since the mistletoe is recognized as a symbol of health and prosperity.

Celebrated annually on January 5, Epiphany Eve is a national holiday, designed to bring joy to children. Unlike the traditions in many European countries, in Italy gifts are brought by La Befana, the old fairy witch woman. In Italy, La Befana corresponds to the image of Santa Claus in the United States, who fills the children's stockings with toys and sweets. The preparations for the festival start early in December with the toy fair in Piazza Navona, which features all kinds of holiday sweets. The customs of Epiphany Eve vary from region to region. In some parts of the country, groups of boys and men go from house to house, performing traditional Epiphany songs and getting small presents in return.

The Sunday preceding Easter is another Italian festival, known as Domenica Delle Palme or Palm Sunday. The ceremonies of the festival vary widely depending on the location. However, the common element to all is a symbol of olive branches, which are painted silver with gilded palms, and decorated with lilies and roses. As soon as palms and olive branches are blessed in the church, the service starts to commemorate the opening of the gates of Jerusalem. The occasion of Easter is widely celebrated in Italy. Traditional food during the festival includes roasted lamb Agnellino, served with carciofi arrostiti (roasted artichokes) with salt and pepper. The traditional bread of the holiday is Brodetto Pasquale, which abounds in every region of the country.

The season treat, especially popular among children is bread in the shape of clown with Easter egg candies.

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