Today's carnivals are held annually throughout the world, teeming with parades, costumes and carnival masks.
Venetian Carnival Masks
In Venice, carnival was an excuse for people of different social classes to mingle and, perhaps, indulge in behaviors that might otherwise be deemed questionable, if not downright salacious. The custom of wearing masks developed to protect the identities of carnival participants.
One favorite type of Venetian mask is the commedia del'arte mask. These masks are made to resemble recognizable faces from traditional Italian comedies, such as Harlequin and Pierrot.
Another type of carnival mask is the fantasy mask, which can depict anything that you can image.
A third type of Venetian carnival mask is the traditional bauta. The bauta is always white and includes a black hat with three tips.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans
By law, anyone riding a float during the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans must wear a mask.
Mardi Gras masks are as diverse as the holiday's participants. Some use Venetian types of masks. Others wear masks designed with colorful feathers. Since the traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple, gold and green, you might see masks made of these color combinations. Some revelers design masks to complement their elaborate costumes.
The carnival in Rio de Janeiro may be the best carnival in the world. It is extravagant, intense and over-the-top. As early as the 1860s, the city elite would party in private residences and then turn out to the streets wearing masks and costumes. Because of the African influences in Brazil, you will see masks, as well as costumes and headdresses, using elaborate feather designs.
Cultural masks from every corner of the world express different meanings, depending on the context in which they are made.
African tribal masks are as varied as the tribes of Africa.
Chinese masks come in different colors, which have specific meanings to theatergoers.