Agile Mardi Gras: A Postcard from Italy

Content By agilealliance .org

The celebrations preceding the fastidiousness of Lent are present in nearly every Roman Catholic-infulenced country in the world. However, few are so well known as those of Italy, where it all began.

The word “Carnevale” most likely derives from the Latin ‘carnem levare’, which translates as “to remove meat”. Over many centuries it became “Carne, Vale”! (Goodbye, meat!).

There is little agreement among historians as to the exact date or even location of the first Carnevale. The origins of the Catholic form of this tradition can be traced as far back as the 11th or 12th centuries, but even then it didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Its roots are far deeper, linked to pagan practices of ancient Greece and Rome which celebrated the coming of spring, fertility, and rebirth.

As it is always far easier to incorporate existing practices into new forms rather than to try and stomp them out entirely and impose something different, the concept of the rebirth of Christ was associated with the Spring Equinox, which already symbolized that idea.

Celebrations in Italy

The most famous of all the Carnevale celebrations in Italy take place in the cities of Venice and Viareggio, but nearly every town in the country has its own version. There are traditional costumes and masks which can be found in all of them, but the practices themselves vary widely.

In the town of Ivrea they have an orange-throwing battle. In Oristano there is a costumed horse race followed by a medieval jousting tournament. Many cities host parades featuring massive papier-maiché floats satirizing current events and politicians. 

For hundred of years, the tradition of wearing elaborate costumes during this time of revelry allowed peasants to walk among nobility, to shield one’s identity to allow for safe lambasting of those in power, to play tricks and practical jokes, and to escape from the grind of daily life into a fantasy where anything is possible. 

“A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale!” (“On Carnival day, anything goes!”)

Join Us for an Agile Mardi Gras

What examples do you have of Agile traditions which have been valuable enough to carry on over many years, but which may evolve over time, and take different forms in various countries, organizations, and teams?

How might anonymity protect those who have difficult things to say without repercussion?

How do you help your teams to carve out time to celebrate, even when there is much work to be done?

Will you join our Agile Alliance Krewe for a virtual Mardi Gras on February 16? Find out more here.

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