Bizarre and historical Carnival traditions in Aosta Valley
Aosta Valley hides a huge number of traditions and celebrations related to Carnival period.
In general Carnival is an important celebration in every Alpine region because it symbolizes the end of the Winter and the approaching of Spring. This is the only one period of the year in which celebrations can explode before the severe time of Lent. The main events in the valley are the Historical Carnival of Vèrres and Coumba Freida Carnival.
The Historical Carnival of Vèrres
It is celebrated every year since 1948. Vèrres is a small town at the beginning of the Ayas Valley. It’s a trip back to the time of the Middle Ages and celebrates the story about the Countess Caterina of Challant, nicknamed ‘friend of the people’, and her husband, Pierre D’Introd.
In 1450 they went down from the castle to the village main square to stay closer to their people. So they danced together in time with the music, all day long. People really appreciated their gesture and unanimously shouted ‘Vive Introd and Madame de Challant‘. This event dates back to 500 years ago, but its memory is still alive and whole Vèrres impatiently waits for this day.
Every year the program includes costume parades, historical commemorations from the castle to the main square. This year the event runs from 1st to 4th March.
Coumba Freida Carnival
The nickname ‘cold valley‘ gives the name to Coumba Freida Carnival. The area, where this event is celebrated, is famous for its severe weather with strong winds blowing in the narrow Great St. Bernard Valley and Valpelline.
This Carnival celebration is not as known as the other ones by tourists, but it is worth discovering its mystery. Roots of this weird Carnival date back to the march of Napoleon’s army through Great St. Bernard Pass during his campaign in Italy in 1800. The main Carnival costumes, Landzettes, take the inspiration from the soldiers’ uniforms. They wear a Napoleonic-style hat, a mask on their faces and hand-made clothes, decorated with small pearls and mirrors. Brilliant colours, like red that indicates strength and power to fight misfortune. They keep a horse’s tail in their hands and wear a belt with bells to chase away evil spirits.
As well as Landzettes, there are other costumes:
- Bear, symbolizing nature’s awakening from a long winter sleep;
- Gueda, with moustache and glasses, leading the parade and playing a trumpet;
- Harlequin, wearing multicoloured clothes, decorated with mirrors and bells;
- Maid of Honour, Harlequin’s companion in the parade;
- Devil, wearing a red cloak, mask, horns and pitchfork. He symbolizes strength;
- Lo Toc and La Toca, they are the characters of the other version of this Carnival’s origins. It is said that when this elder couple got married, they feel very embarrassed because of their poverty. In order to reduce their embarrassment, all guests did not come well-dressed but wearing unusual clothes.
The groups of mask-characters go visiting local families, who, in exchange of propitiatory rites to get rid of misfortune, offer food, drinks and all together sing and dance.
These celebrations are held throughout the valley in different moments. Here the appointments that you cannot miss:
- Gignod: on 22nd February
- Étroubles: on 27th and 28th February
- Bionaz: on 1st March
- Saint-Oyen: on 1st March
- Allein: from 2nd to 4th March
- Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses: on 2nd March
- Roisan: on 3rd and 4th March
If you want to discover other info about all the Carnival parades in Aosta Valley, check the official website out.