The Ladin carnival traditionally begins on 17th January, the feast day of Saint Antonio Abate, when the celebrations begin’, even though in Penia, where the tradition is most alive, the first mascherèda (fancy dress party) is held on 20th January, the feast day of patron Saint Sebastiano. The tradition has been kept alive in particular in Penia and Alba di Canazei where a folk group dedicated specifically to the carnival is still quite active. This period, where costumes and colours reign, lasts until midnight on Shrove Tuesday when it ends with the rite of ‘brujèr carnascèr’ or ‘burning the carnival’.
Carnival is among the most evocative historic and anthropological events in Ladin folk tradition, born in ancient times to celebrate the end of winter and announce the arrival of the warmer season. A peculiar characteristic of the celebration is the presence of wooden masks, artisanal products made from Swiss pine painted with oil paints by master mask makers.
Originally women were not permitted to participate in the carnival in costume, but were essential during the dressing stage. They sewed the costumes for the men and during the dance had to choose their favourite mask. In addition to the interesting and amusing masked parades and floats, during this week and throughout the whole valley, visitors can attend theatre shows such as the typical mascherèdes performed in the Ladin language, masked balls, snow competitions and celebrations in the piazzas where music plays an important role.
The celebrations in Canazei are held each year thanks to the Grop de la Mèscres de Dèlba e Penìa and the Grop de la Mèscres de Cianacei e Gries who handle organisation and promotion of carnival.