The Carnival of Sappada / Plodn is an intense moment of tradition, folklore, festival and entertainment.
The long "carnival time" is marked by a few days of key local customs: the "Sunday of the Poor - Pèttlar Sunntach", the "Peasants' Sunday - Paurn Sunntach, "Fat Thursday - Vaastign Pfinzntòk ", the "the Lords' Sunday - Hearn Sunntach ", the "Bun Monday - Vrèss Montach" and the "Mardi Gras" or "Schpaib Ertach".
Over the course of these days Sappada / Plodn becomes a theatre of cheerful masks ‘raiders’ (called “lorvn” in the local dialect) bringing spontaneous good humour to the streets, in homes and bars, improvising jokes and little plays. The masking is complete and, by rule, no one ever uncovers their face during the farce so as to prolong the game for the audience who then speculate as the identity of people wearing them.
The manner of speaking is important in this and, in fact, the voice is altered by the wooden mask covering the face. This feature also give the Sappada carnival a “theatrical” aspect, not only as a play but also through its expressive protagonism. There are even some idiomatic phrases in the local dialect used exclusively by the mask-wearers: the “Rollate”, for example usually asks the question: “pische bol nutze” / are you good .. .? or “osche kan aale?” / have you got an egg (to eat)? Just to make things clearer, this is a spontaneous carnival, whose rituals are very old and handed down orally between generations. Mask-wearers have a lot of freedom of action, so every year is different from the previous one, both for the number of participants and for the masks worn, either because the proposed skits or the jokes ... This is the Carnival of a small mountain village, where everyone knows everyone else, where everybody carves his own mask and is inspired by the daily life in the choice of jokes to do, taking advantage of their hidden identity.
The “Rollate” is the typical mask of Sappada / Plodn, taking part in the Carnival. The name comes from “rolln”, the heavy and noisy wrought iron balls tied at the waist with a chain. The “Rollate” is an austere character who inspires awe for his appearance, a kind of man / bear. He is tall and strong, wearing a fur coat with hood and striped trousers made from "hile", the canvas used cover the cattle in the winter months. Completing the clothing are the heavy iron-shod boots, while the face is covered with a mask carved in wood with a severe expression and the typical hard and pronounced features of a man of the mountains. The “Rollate”, wields a broom that is either used in a joking or threatening way. The only coquetry of the character is the neckerchief, white if single but red if married.
The origin of “Rollate” is lost in the mists of time. In the past, this disguise was used by those who, because of old grudges, wanted to "even the score". From the anthropological point of view, the symbolism of the bear is old and is still seen today in many carnivals (from Sardinia to the Balkans, from Piedmont to Sicily). In Sappada, it opens the Carnival parades and has a role, in addition to the choreography and appeal, for the protection of the masks that accompany him. The “Rollate” has been adopted as the symbol of Sappada / Plodn.