The celebration of the Carnival festivities has very ancient origins, which go back to the Greek Dionysian and the Roman Saturnalia. During the Dionysian and Saturnalia festivals it was permitted a temporary dissolution of social obligations and hierarchies, an overthrow of the order limited in time.
It represented a period of celebration, symbolic of renewal, during which chaos replaced the established order, but once out of the festive days, reemerged new and guaranteed for the next twelve months.
The Saturnalia and the orgies shown that at the end of the year, in anticipation of the New Year, were repeated through the mythical moments of transition from Chaos to Cosmos, as to say the creation of the Universal Order.
The confusion of the forms was illustrated by the upheaval of social conditions (in Saturnalia the slave was elevated to master and the patron served the slaves).
Carnival is therefore part of a cyclical dynamism of mythic significance: in the spring, when the ground begins to manifest its power, it marks an open passage between the underworld and the land inhabited by the living creatures.
The Catholic Church has manipulated this pagan ritual including it in its own religious calendar as has occurred with most of the popular recurrences related to the natural cycles.
In fact the word Carnival means “carnem levare”, from the Latin, to eliminate the meat, because the climax of the party coincides with the beginning of the Lent fasting.
In this period you can attend events all over Italy that recall the ancient customs of the regions that host them of which the participants probably ignore the origins.
The most popular one and best known by the tourists is the one that takes place in Venice, that still renews the eighteen hundred splendors of the city, but you can follow many other ones spread all over the country.
But for those who need to wait one more year I can make you taste the typical carnival pastry or sweet: le chiacchiere (loosely translated into “the chats”) directly extracted from my cook book http://www.eatingheart.com/
CHIACCHIERE (Fried pastry)
3 tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
½ glass milk
35 g butter (soft)
grated peel of 1 non-treated lemon
1 liqueur glass grappa or sparkling wine
½ kg flour.
Make the pastry as you would normally and put it through the pasta machine (first thick gauge, then gradually thinner) till the pastry is nice and smooth. Using a pastry wheel, cut strips around 10 cm wide and then cut diagonally into lozenges. Lastly make two parallel incisions in the middle of each chiacchiera so that the central part cooks properly and also looks more wavy. An alternative is to cut 3 cm wide strips and fold into simple knots. Fry a few chiacchiere at a time in abundant, well-heated peanut oil. As soon as they start to color, remove and place on kitchen tissue to remove residual oiliness. Dust with icing sugar. Good cold as well.
Enjoy and let me know how it came out!