The Venice Carnival is an annual festival that begins 40 days before Easter and ends on Shrove Tuesday. It dates back to 1296, when the Senate of the Republic issued an edict declaring the day before Lent a public holiday.
Historically, costumes would be worn throughout the period of the carnival, generally a cloak with a long-nosed mask. The streets of Venice would fill with masked revellers, and it would be impossible to distinguish between nobility and commoners.
The Carnival declined in the 18th Century, but was revived in the late 1970s and now attracts thousands of tourists from around the world.