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City of Smiles: Rome, Italy (2)

Wendy Yeh

In the city of Rome, people organize numerous special events. The clown festival is, perhaps, one of the most popular festivals for children and for grown-ups. Ingenious clown makeup, vibrant characters, funny costumes, and boisterous parades are some of the highlights.

It was a fantastic opportunity to experience Rome as a city of smiles during the clown festival. The clown festival celebrates the art of clowning with street artists, jugglers, acrobats, circus performers, musicians, magicians, and other talents. During the clown festival, it seems the whole city is dressed up as a clown.

Throughout the city, and not only in the streets and squares in the city, even in some suburbs, welcome the open air festivities with clowns and many interesting characters. But above all, participants enjoy lots of music and dance and the inevitable markets with delicious food and drinks.

Ever since I saw my first clown at a circus performance, I always wondered where clowns originated from. I found out that the history of clowns is a vast subject. Right through ancient history there have always been men and women who have had the ability to make others laugh.

However, ancient clowns were not known as clowns. The word “clown” did not come into use until the 16th century.

Ancient Rome had several types of clown. Some clowns were a popular type of mime and famous for their ability to pull hilarious grimaces with their faces and body gestures. Another type of clowns was usually bald-headed or wore a long pointed hat and an outfit in colorful shiny fabrics.

Clown-like characters have been around for thousands of years. Historically, clowns have been a vehicle for poking fun at powerful people. They provided a safety valve for letting off steam and they were granted special freedom of expression. Their value as entertainers was valued.

Over time, clowns have become a mainstay of children’s birthday parties. The now familiar circus clown, with its painted face, colorful big wig, and oversized clothing and huge shoes, arose in the 19th century and has changed only slightly over the past 200 years.

Hollywood has long exploited our deep ambivalence about clowns. They have introduced us to many Pop culture’s most famous clowns, including Ronald McDonald, Bozo the Clown, the Joker, Krusty the Clown, and others.

Staying close to the present allows clowns to live out their emotions to the full. They are unrepentant optimists. I felt fortunate to have had the rare opportunity to get a short glimpse to cover many centuries of clowns in the past when I visited Rome, Italy.


posing with school children who dressed up for the colorful parade in Rome 		width=
posing with school children who dressed up for the colorful parade in Rome

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