Carnascèr de Fascia

During Carnival Val di Fassa stuffs itself with people, colours and yells. All the villages plunge into the Ladin Carnival, whose heart is in Penìa and Alba, few kilometres from Canazei. There, on the slopes of the thousand-year old glacier of Marmolada, "deslea carnascèr", which means to give free rein to Carnival. All this has been happening for centuries, every 17th January, for the recurrence of Patron Saint, Sant’Antonio Abate, the merriest time in the year. Two days after, on San Sebastiano’s day, the party really gets going in Penìa. From that moment, parades, masked parties, open-air plays and shows in theatres pass through Val di Fassa until Mardigras. But it is in those two little suburbs in the upper part of Val di Fassa that the most ancient rituals take place, thanks to "Gròp de la Mescrès de Delba e Penia" ("The group of the masks from Alba and Penia"), which recalls the habits of the Ladin tradition, as if the time had stopped. This association has been later flanked by the "Gròp de la Mescrès de Cianacei e Gries" (group from Canazei), that  has widened and enriched the merriest parties, feasts and appointments. The Group of the masks from Soraga has joined the thing in these last years, interpreting the historical traditions of Carnival in Fassa in a more modern way, proposing masquerade balls and unusual masquerade competitions.

Costumes and traditions

The leading figures of the Ladin Carnival

In these days of pure cheerfulness Laché, Bufon and Marascons, the colourful leading masks of the Ladin Carnival, unavoidable in every parade, appear along the streets of the villages. In the past, those were personified by the "Conscric" (boys born in the same year that were becoming adult). 

Laché: ambassador graced and gentle in his manner, not only guarantor of the masks, but also presenter and guide of the Carnival parade. His costume, as those worn by the other characters, is a combination of the elements of the festive dresses, both male and feminine. The dress is completed by an over-decorated hat, a sceptre adorned by long coloured ribbons and by a mask that he keeps in his hand. Like all the Leading Masks, the Laché wears a silver necklace, pendants and small chains in abundance.

Marascons: great masks, always acting in couple or in groups of four. They never speak, they simply jump arm in arm on the rythm of the music and so their "bronzins" (cowbells), fastened to their big belts, resound. The costume of the Marascons is very sober: white knee socks, "lederhosen" (leather trousers), belt and sceptre. Like the Laché, they also wear a hat, covered with flowers in silk or paper, enriched with small chains, adorned with the "tòleres" the Thaler of the Asburgic Empire. In the middle of the hat, a rectangular mirror stands out to repel the evil spirits, while a couple of "mesacoudes" is sewed on its summit: these are the feathers of the fleeting Black Grouse's tail, symbol of the youngsters’ courage and bravery. In their right hand, like the Laché, the Marascons always hold a "facèra", a pink wooden mask calm in its expression that normally is not worn.

Bufon: he is the real protagonist of Carnival. His costume is of great impact: he wears colourful knee socks, a sort of apron around his waist, made with a shoulder kerchief and completed by the richly adorned upper part of the dress. Just as much beautiful is his picky hat, adorned with flowers and with a long bundle of colourful ribbons, fastened to the peak with a tuft of Black Grouse feathers. The Bufon interprets the “mad”: his cheeky gags towards his compatriots are almost paradoxical, between the joke and the offense. He always holds in his hands a "stica", particular coloured wooden stick, and a "cucalòch", a telescope to find out vices and virtues of the presents. His face is hidden by a "facèra" with a cunning snigger and a long, irreverent nose with a huge red pendent on his extremity.

The Carnival Guiding Masks are exposed all year round at the Ladin Museum in a specific room dedicated to the rituals of Val di Fassa.

Photogallery: Laché; Marascons; Bufon; the "Conscric"

The other masks of the Ladin Carnival

The group masks have to be added  to the characters of this Carnival procession, divided in "Mèscres a Bel", polite and elegant masks, and "Mèscres a Burt", grotesque, aggressive, invasive and clumsy, like the "Om dal bosch" (the wild man from the wood) or the "Strions" (the shamans). Their anonymity is guaranteed by the "facères", wooden masks, finely carved by the most famous artists of Val di Fassa, among which Virgilio Soraperra from Canazei, Feliciano Costa from Moena and Fernardo Brunel from Soraga stand out. These masks are obtained from half a trunk of swiss pine, carved both inside and outside, to make the mask adhere to the face of who’s wearing it, and then painted in oil.

Nowadays, you rarely meet them in the parades, but in the past there were also the "mescrès ries" (wicked masks): the "Pizon" from Fassa and the "Lonc" from Moena used to appear as infernal spirits, ghostly figures lifted on poles and covered with a long white bed sheet. And then, always in Moena, there were the "Arlechign", who had nothing to do with Arlecchino, well known in the other parts of Italy. The Arlechign were the "Lords of the hell", wearing boots to their knees, a tunic, checked trousers, bells and a conical hat; their face was hidden behind a transparent veil and they used to hold a whip in their hand.

Other typical masks of the Ladin Carnival are the "Conscrit te ceston", representing an old mother accompanying his son to the call-up ("Conscrit" means eighteen years old), the "Paiazo" in Campitello and the "Zeberchie".

Did you know that in the past only men could take part to the masquerade? It was harshly forbidden to women…

Photogallery: "Mèscra a Bel, l'Om da la stèles"; "Conscrit te ceston"; the "Lonc" from Moena; "Mèscra a Burt, la Stria" (the witch)


The main events of the Ladin Carnival in Val di Fassa

That taste of joke and that pleasure of wearing masks of the past are still retraceable in the several events of the "Carnascèr de Fascia" (Carnival of Val di Fassa), which in Val di Fassa is still considered the merriest period of the year.
During Carnival, the "mascherèdes" (funny plays in Ladin) increase in the small theatres of the valley, as well as the parades and the feasts in the square, like the most enjoyable one in Campitello. Almost one month of euphoria, during which the traditional rituals of the passage from the winter to the spring-like rebirth renew themselves. This moment has been representing the merriest period of the year for centuries, a moment awaited with joy by old people, who could go back to childhood thanks to jokes and funny gags, and above all by youngsters, that between February and March used to get married. 
Some propitiatory rituals almost got lost: the masquerades for the ploughing, for the crafts and even that for the marriage ("Baschìa") with its main protagonist, the "King of Sobèna". As in the past the marriages were mostly celebrated during Carnival, in the area of Vigo and Pozza, the masquerade "del Fum", a ritual for former fiancées, used to take place on the marriage's eve.

The masquerades in Penìa
This plays, according to a detailed protocol, involve masks and funny and irreverent characters. These are the "mascherèdes", theatrical shows in Ladin, put up on the suggestive stage of the ancient elementary school in Penìa. At the end of the performance, the final mess starts, with the masks dividing "the nice and the ugly", reaching the acme of the joke during the dance called "Bal del barbier", followed by balls till late night. This all happens under the attentive direction of the "Grop de la Mescrès de Delba e Penia".

Carnival in Campitello
In Piaz de Ciampedel square, on the Sunday preceding Mardi Gras, one of the most involving feasts of the valley takes place, with plenty of characters wearing the "facères" and performing funny gags and jokes to the public. The tradition sees the parade ending by the "Molin da la veies", the mill into which the evils throw old harpies who shout desperately at the beginning, but then come out transformed into merry girls. This rite evokes back the circle of life, the passage from the winter to the spring-like rebirth. The end of Carnival is announced on the evening of Mardi Gras by the so called "brujèr Carnascèr", a big fire organised by the boys of the village, rite that is repeated also in other villages along the valley.

Carnival in Moena, Vigo and Pozza
In the afternoon of Mardi Gras Moena, Vigo and Pozza celebrate Carnival with masked parades and theme floats. In Moena, there is also the curious participation of the inhabitants of the quarter hood "Turchia", who pass through the town-centre wearing sultan and paramour’s dresses, recalling the legend-tasting ancient origin of this part of the village.

See also: Complete events’ calendar

Fonte: Istituto Culturale Ladino


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