February Festivities: Carnevale

February is an exciting time to be on Franklin's beautiful campus, not too far from the historic city of Bellinzona, the capital of the canton Ticino in Switzerland, famous for its three castles (Castelgrande, Montebello, Sasso Corbaro) that have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2000. Yes, it is always nice to be within a 20 minute train ride of a beautiful medieval city full of castles, and February is a particularly exciting time because of the city's carnival festivities.  Every year, the capital of Ticino practically shuts down and welcomes its "doors" to 150,000 guests from other parts of Switzerland and Italy. 

Friends and I at Bellinzona's Castelgrande during the Street Food Festival last semester

Most people have heard of the carnival festivals in Venice and Rio de Janeiro, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The celebration in Bellinzona is similar to these events; however, it simply has not acquired the same international fame. This particular six-day-long festival is known to the locals as "Rabadan," meaning "noise" in the Piedmontese dialect. It has been going on for over a century; in fact, the festival celebrated its 150th anniversary back in 2013. 

The annual Rabadan parade (photo from rsi.ch)
The carnival tradition is celebrated during the week before the Christian celebration of Lent. Typically, carnival involves a public celebration or parade that incorporates components of a circus, masks, and costumes. The event is meant to bring social unity to the host community. It is difficult to miss the approach of carnival in Ticino, as it is such an integral part of the culture. Many of the stores and businesses put festive decorations in their windows; the large department stores expand their costume sections until they absorb nearly an entire floor; and large groups of young school children traipse through the cobblestone streets with their teachers and classmates, aimlessly tossing pieces of confetti that will remain long past the the end of the carnival.  



Young school children marching through the streets of Lugano (photo from Corriere del Ticino)

Carnival is one of my favorite times in Lugano. When I was growing up, I absolutely loved Halloween - getting to dress up and spend time with good friends, what could be better? Well, Carnival allows you to have all of the joys of Halloween, without people telling you that you are "too old to dress up." That being said, elaborate costumes are awfully expensive. If you have any creative costume suggestions for someone on a student budget, please feel free to comment them below this post!

I hope that you have learned a bit about a little-known local tradition, and that you make an effort to check it out one day. That is all for now, but check back in soon as I continue to update you about Spring semester adventures.


Buon Carnevale & a presto,

Ember


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