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Venetian Carnival

An at-home celebration with mask-making, storytelling, and a gondola

When you live in the Midwest, you have to get super creative about enjoying winter. Having something to look forward to in the dark winter months makes all the difference. The plan for this Venetian Carnival (“Carnevale”) party was born. The guests were classmates (ages 3 to 6), and their families. The setting was a house, that we transformed to the islands of Venice, Italy. While the focus was the children, and the goal was to bring them together for a fun afternoon and to teach them a bit about this Venetian tradition, we also wanted to delight the parents. This had to be a kid-friendly party that the adults would not want to leave. Here are the highlights.

We set the tone for the event with handmade invitations, featuring some of the most prominent elements of Carnival – masks and the gondola.

Party invitations set the tone for your event. Handmade invitations send a personal message. It’s a hug in the mail.
Guests were greeted with a large gondola, also a wonderful photo op.
Decorations above the table included postcards from Venice and paper cut-out pigeons, which are abundant in Venice.
The menu included delights for the children and parents alike—all Italian fare.
The desserts were all nibble-able—cookies decorated with pigeons, just as you’d find in St. Mark’s Square, and popcorn (drizzled with white chocolate and sprinkles)—after all, popcorn is what you’d feed the pigeons if you were there.
The table doubled as a puppet theater (from Moontastic Studio on Etsy), with a show that introduced some of the characters of Venetian Carnival, and taught the kids a few words in Italian.
Mostly, the show made them laugh.
A craft station is a great idea for a kids’ party. For a party with a lot of children, it’s helpful to have an area that kids can go to throughout the event, rather than a guided craft they all do at once. We set up a room as a mask workshop, and the kids had a ball decorating their own masks for the event.
We set up stations around the house so the kids could work on their own, or with a parent, and engage with some of the cultural and arts activities. This table had two puzzles, a challenging puzzle of Venetian masks and a more simple wood puzzle of the map of Italy.
A library table with several children’s books let kids explore on their own, or with a parent. The books helped us research the decorations and activities for the event, too.
Of course there was gelato! Actually, it was Nigella Lawson’s honey semifreddo, but that’s close enough.
Don’t you feel like you really were there?