Carnival masks enable children to experience the theme of Carnival, which is fun. Originally, Carnival festivals began as merrymaking prior to Lent, a 40-day interval during which Christians renounce indulgences. Celebrate the American version of Carnival, known as Mardi Gras, or tap into other Carnival traditions, such as the Venice or Dominican festivals with a party for children and adults. Ask that everyone arrive early with costume supplies, and spend the day making masks before dining and dancing.
French for "Fat Tuesday," Mardi Gras occurs on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, and is celebrated with parades throughout the world. French people who emigrated to the U.S. also brought the tradition of Mardi Gras to New Orleans. Gather cardboard, elastic string, glue sticks and craft feathers in green, gold, yellow and purple colours. Purchase a wide variety of decorations, such as beads, lace, glitter, craft jewels and sequins. Determine whether the children's masks will cover the whole face or only half of the face before you cut the masks out of the cardboard and attach the elastic bands. Carve the eyeholes out of the masks. Encourage children to let their imaginations soar when decorating the masks.
Carnival takes place in the Dominican Republic on every Sunday in February. Because the island has survived repeated looting by pirates, the Dominicans pride themselves on making the most of resources. Children construct Carnival masks out of cardboard and discarded plastic, and find ways to paint their masks without make-up. Their masks reflect popular characters in Carnival, which include the Bear Man, the Indians, the chicken thief and the devil. Have the children search for recycled materials to make their Carnival masks and encourage them to model their masks as one of the Dominican characters. Direct them to cut up cereal boxes or candy packaging for decorations.
Carnival of Venice
Explore the style and colours of masks worn for the Venetian carnival, which launches on Shrove Tuesday. Consider that the Venetians used these masks as camouflage when engaging in unlawful deeds, such as gaming, or attending masquerades. Have the children make a basic mask out of papier-mâché, or apply gesso to a plastic mask and allow the plaster to harden. Spray paint with a single colour, such white, black or gold. Embellish the mask with gold-coloured tinsel, plastic vines and craft gems.
Variations of Masks
Encourage the children to make different kinds of Carnival masks. For example, the girls can make a Venetian moretta, or an oval mask made of black velvet that covered the eyes and nose. Have the girls substitute black felt for the velvet and tack on a scarf to form a veil. Model the haunting Venetian bauta mask, which covers the entire face but has no mouth. Show the children how to make the volto mask, a ghostly white mask complemented with a black tricorne and a cloak. Use black construction paper to create the three-cornered hat. Cut the paper into a large triangle and fold the edges up into flaps.