Saturday February 3, 2018 takes place the traditional Maria’s feast that has very distant origins
Since the ninth century in Venice the day of Mary’s purification (in February) it was used to bless couples who would get married by the year, among the women who were blessed were participating 12 girls belonging to the people and were dressed in elegant clothes and jewelry precious lendings from the churches of the city.
During one of these celebrations, Venice suffered a pirate assault, and the brides were kidnapped along with their jewels. The population managed to save the girls. To thank the Madonna of her intercession, the feast of the Marie was established.
With the passing of time during the Festival the 12 most beautiful Marie were drawn among the poorest girls, each of them was assigned to a rich family, who had the task of giving her clothes, jewels and a dowry so that she could be married. The party lasted many days with banquets, boat processions and music.
However, the feast of the Marie created many troubles: the girls about to get married were molested, and in the worst cases raped, by the men who came to see them. In addition, the draw of the Marie caused friction between families, both among those poor (who, in case of loss, protested for the lack of victory) as well as those rich (who did not want to shoulder the economic burdens). So the girls in flesh and bone were gradually replaced by wooden statues, called Marione or Marie de tola (wooden Marie). They were dressed and bejeweled, but unlike their “human” counterparts they did not come with a dowry, and at the end of the party the kit returned to the family who held their legitimate possession. With this new approach, however, the party lost much of its original meaning and was no longer pleasing to the Venetians, so much so that the Republic of Venice in the fourteenth century had to enact a law by which anyone who threw vegetables against the procession of Marione would be punished with jail.
In recent years the feast of the Marie has been re-enacted in the Venice Carnival during which twelve Venetian girls depart from San Piero di Castello and then parade in medieval and Renaissance clothes in Piazza San Marco. At the end of the parade, the most beautiful of them receives the title of Maria of the year.