Its origins are very ancient. The first document in wich the word Carnival for the first time appeared date back to the time of Doge Vitale Falier in 1094. The istitutution of the Carnival by powerful people in Venice was dued to the necessity to give the population a period just of fun, in which venetians and foiregners gathered into the town.
Through the anonimity granted by masks and costumes, the division between different social classes disappeared and even the public mocking of authorities and aristocracy was allowed.
The first official document declaring the existence of the Venice Carnival is an edict of 1296, when the Senate declared a public holiday the day before Lent. In this era, and for many centuries after, the carnival lasted six weeks, from December the 26 tothe Ash Wednesday, although the celebrations were sometimes made even start the first day of October.
Wearing masks and costumes the concealing of identity could be totally possible and any form of personnel belonging to social class, sex, religion as well. Everyone could determine attitudes and behaviors according to new costumes and changed appearance. For this reason, the most common greeting continuously echoing down in the streets was simply: “Good morning lady Mask”
With the increasingly widespread disguising custom for the Carnival, in Venice a genuine trade in masks and costumes was born from nothing and gradually developed.
There were all sorts of attractions: jugglers, acrobats, musicians, dancers, animal shows and other exhibitions, audience of all ages and social classes, with the most disparate and imaginative costumes. The sellers traded all sorts of merchandise, from seasonal fruit to the rich fabrics, from spices to foods from distant countries, especially from the East.
In addition to large demonstrations in open places, small representations of any kind spreaded quickly(even very transgressive) in private houses, theaters and cafes in the city. In the sumptuous homes of Venetian palaces nobles began to host grand-long festivities with dancing in great forms.
But it is in the eighteenth century that the Venice Carnival reached its maximum splendor and international recognition, becoming famous and prestigious in the Europe of the time, creating a tourist attraction and a goal sought by thousands of festive visitors.