When we asked the principal at the Italian school our children attend what time school started each morning, she told us 8:30 am. When we showed up at 8:15 on the first day, everything was locked. Promptly at 8:30 everyone arrived, and I mean everyone, at the same time.
When we went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, we arrived at 11:30 pm and not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. At midnight, everyone arrived.
We arrived at Carnevale in Viareggio at 2 pm for a 3 pm parade. There were very few people milling about even though we had been told 200,0000 were expected. How could this be possible?
As a child, I remember racing to Seattle to get seats for the Seafair parade four or five hours prior to the event. I remember staking out parade real estate and fending off fence-sitters with precision. This past weekend, my husband and I gave each other quizzical looks as we stood in the middle of this remarkable party that started at 3:00 pm. How does it all flow so smoothly when I spent a good portion of my past life backing us out of timelines to make sure we never missed anything? How did these people find parking and tickets and costumes without a project plan?
There were no barriers at the parade. Anyone could join in and you are responsible for your own safety. Very few people sat anywhere. People in the parade were drinking from open bottles and smoking while dancing. They would pick up children and give them candy as kids ran in and out of the procession throwing confetti and spraying silly string at anyone they could. It was playful and festive and everyone was involved. I was uncomfortable with all this freedom and accountability. What if it gets out of hand? What if someone gets hurt or run over by a float? What if no one is in charge of this party?
Just as I was beginning to hyperventilate, I saw a sign that said Viareggio’s 141st Carnevale and I decided to relax. I kept telling myself quietly, they have been at this a while so just enjoy. I kept trying to imagine the traffic in the USA getting to festivals and parades and what would happen if kids ambushed festival-goers with buckets of confetti or greasy silly string unannounced.
I am not sure exactly how or why it all works here. I am still perplexed by this “just in time” mentality but I am intrigued because of the ease I experience in these crowds. It is not about size because we have been to festivals large and small in the USA and Italy.
So what is it about? I think I used to fear missing out on front row seats more than I feared not being present in the moment. Now I know all joy rests in the latter and nothing matters more. I liked the sound of that philosophy before living in Italy … Now it is the very air we breathe.
Carnevale 2015 ~ Viareggio, Italy