Coumba Freide Carnivals
A mixture of eccentricity and history in a series of Carnivals worth discovering
The cold blasts that blow down through the Valle del Gran San Bernardo have earned this place the nickname of “Coumba Freide”.
Nevertheless, the freezing cold of this period is mitigated in February by the warmth and passion, shown by the inhabitants of the Valley, in the organisation of what must be the most unusual carnival in all Valle d'Aosta.
The traditional costumes, worn for this event, recall the passage of Napoleon's soldiers here, in May 1800.
Another more imaginative account says that the Carnival originated on the occasion, when two elderly simpletons got married in the town. The townspeople had decided to join in with the celebrations and have a good time (as was their custom at all weddings), but they felt a little embarassed at the idea of turning up at the church in their "Sunday best" and so decided to wear unusual clothes, instead.
The so-called landzette, the bizarre and in some ways disturbing costumes, used in this Carnival, consist of clothes and hats that recall the uniforms worn by Napoleon's forces. These expensive, and entirely hand-made, costumes are adorned with beads, sequins and small mirrors, which reflect the light and ward off evil spirits.
The faces of the landzette are covered by masks that used to be made of wood; they carry the hair of a horse's tail in their hands and wear a belt with a bell around their waists. These elements are interpreted by anthropologists as symbolic instruments used to banish evil spirits.
All the towns in the Great-Saint-Bernard Valley have similar customs, with some more or less significant differences. These unusual Carnivals are full of mystery, history and eccentricity, which makes them worth discovering.
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