Mosaic / Special Topics / Study Abroad / April 6, 2011

Venetian Carnival in Lorraine

When my host mother invited me to a Venetian Carnival in a village in Lorraine, a former German province, I was a little reluctant to accept the proposal. I thought it would be mostly locals drinking beer or wine and, because of the topic, there would be a couple of people wearing cheap imitations of the costumes used in Venice during the Carnival. However, I decided to go with her and her friends.

When we arrived, I was still pessimistic. We got to the center of the village and saw some costumed people parading in front of the church. Beautiful costumes indeed, but I thought that was it: a few people posing for the tourists in front of the most impressive piece of architecture of the place.

After we walked some more, I realized I was wrong. The participants wearing costumes kept appearing. There were no streets, fountains, or stairs where you couldn’t see at least one person whose mask was smiling (or frowning) at the cameras of the multitude of visitors.

It was a real pleasure for my eyes (and mind) to get lost in the sea of colored butterflies, cats, harlequins and birds. There were a lot of couples representing kings and queens, gods and goddesses or just complementing each other. Children transformed into princesses, nuns or cavaliers were also present. There was even an entire family of four dressed as orchids. It is really hard to choose, but I think my favorite costumes were those of the god and goddess of the sea made of a tranquil green that reminded you of the ocean in a windless day, the fabric of their costumes was adorned with sea stars, shells and pearly white silk.

At the beginning, I thought all these masks and costumes were imported from Italy. I found out that, in fact, they were all manufactured by the people wearing them. They told me it takes about four months to create such a masterpiece. This long period of time makes total sense since every piece of the costume, from the tips of the shoes to the fake fingernails on top of the gloves, matches perfectly. I also believed at first that all the people wearing them (about 400) were locals. Actually, many of them weren’t even French. The masked participants came from all over Europe!

Although badly advertised, this carnival is a very big deal in the village (and you can easily understand why once you take part in it). There are lots of stores selling materials to create costumes and masks, and almost all the shop windows were decorated with objects ranging from masks the size of a quarter to real-life costumed mannequins.

This event was completely worth seeing. In my opinion, it was even better than the one from which it received its inspiration; you could take your time observing the costumes, there weren’t a million tourists waiting for their turn to see them, as there would have been Venice. I am so glad I accepted the invitation. I should try not to be so skeptical in the future in order not to miss some great occasions like this one.

Raluca Oprinca

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