Masks are part of many cultures. The styles we see today in the Modern world are the descendants of 15th and 16th century Masquerade Balls. In the tradition of royalty, Carnival became more and more flamboyant.
Carnival is related to our Mardi Gras as it starts two weeks before Ash Wednesday. It is the case, with so many groups having their Mardi Gras parades all over New Orleans they start very early in the year.
When the Venetian Republic fell in the late 18th century the excessive traditions of the privileged declined and masks fell out of favor.
The paper mache masks we see today are based on the Commedia dell’Arte , known as Italian comedy. Actors and acrobats traveled Italy performing for town folk and the court. The assorted characters like Scarramuccia the long nosed mask, Pulcinella with the crooked nose, and Harlequin are still present today at Masked Balls.
In 1979 Carnival was revived in Venice. Today it is great success and all people are welcome to join in. You can see the wonderful pictures of people in masks and costumes in the squares of Venice.
Halloween and Masquerade intermingle in the world of masks. Today Halloween is second only to Christmas in money spent. A favorite theme for a Charity or Special Event is often a Masked Ball, A Night in Venice or a Black Tie Event that calls for the attendee to wear a mask. Even Weddings have chosen Masquerade as a theme.
If you love to create a costume and show it off there are many places to do it. Check your area for Special Masked Events during the year, Mardi Gras Celebrations are now common all over the U.S.A. and of course there is Halloween. Many parties, so little time.
Masks are plain to fancy. Mass produced to hand-made. There is the perfect mask out there for you and your costume. It is the air of mystery, the fun of hiding must go back to childhood. This is probably why we love dressing up and wearing a mask so much.