Yes, that’s right! Carnival lasts a week in Milan – so while the rest of the world stops the celebration the day of Mardi Gras and enters Lent, we keep on celebrating for four more days. You ask why. The tradition calls for Archbishop Ambrose to leave on a pilgrimage saying we would have been back to celebrate Carnival and begin Lent together. He had to stay four more days away and the people waited for his return. The whole Diocese still celebrates the Carnival beginning Mardi Gras all through FAT Thursday to culminate on FAT Saturday (today!). Fat Saturday is the day when you would see traditional parades , wear your favorite costume, eat custard-filled tortelli & chiacchere and throw coriandoli (not confetti – see more) and streamers. The most famous character of the Milanese tradition is ‘Meneghino‘ (p. meh-neh-gih-noh). He wears a tricorn, a wig with a ponytail, a long green brown jacket, black pants above the knee and red and white striped socks. Under his jacket he wears a white shirt with lace edging and a kerchief around his neck. His shoes are black with a large front buckle. His name comes from ‘Domenichino’ (Dominic), the servant that impoverished nobles would hire on Sundays only. Meneghino became symbol of the Milanese patriotic spirit in the 1800s. Flanked by Cecca, together they make a lovely couple.
The Carnival parades in my hometown are led by Tarlisu and Bumbasina, both dressed with cloths invented by the local artisans to cover mattresses and make sheets. Busto Arsizio is not only a land where sausages are found; people also used to call it the ‘Italian Manchester’ for the (once) successful and strong textile industry.