|The 2006 Winter Olympic Games came to an end Sunday night.|
|The 2006 Winter Olympic Games came to an end Sunday night, as the closing ceremony at Stadio Olimpico in Torino capped 16 days of competition among over 2,500 athletes from around the globe.|
The theme of the night was "Carnevale Italiano." Carnival in Italy dates back to the era of the Roman Empire, when it was part of the pagan lifestyle, but over the centuries the festival changed in accordance with the evolution of the people's faith.
Carnival is the time just prior to the Roman Catholic season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. A series of parties lead up to the final day of celebrating on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. The Lenten season, which begins this upcoming Wednesday, is marked by numerous days of fasting, so the culmination of carnival is a last hurrah of sorts.
The importance of masks in the carnival celebration was apparent throughout the evening, as many participants onstage and members of the crowd donned the disguises. The wearing of masks during carnival can be traced back to the Venetian celebrations beginning in the 13th century.
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