The keys to understand “el Carnaval”

So for the past few days you’ve might see people wearing funny costumes on the street. Well, Spaniards haven’t gone crazy: we’ve just got possessed by Carnival madness!

Carnival (carnaval in Spanish) is a very important tradition in Spain (as well as in so many other countries), though some regions are more prone to celebrate it than others. For example, Madrid has lost a bit of its Carnival spirit by reducing celebrations to few neighborhoods whilst regions on the north and south of the country keep this tradition even as a local holiday.

Today, we will give you a bit of an insight so you can understand what just happened in Spain. We bring you the key to master Carnival in Spain.

The origin of Carnival

It is one of the oldest pagan festivities and it has been happening for over 5,000 years all over the world. Though, in Christian and Catholic countries it marks the beginning of the Lent, meaning people needed to party, drink and dance (anonymously, hence the costumes) before all the Eastern process starts.  That was back in the day, but now it is more like a tradition where people marches on the streets and have fun with music and friends. We could say it is like Halloween but for non-English-speaking countries (well, and the dates change every year).

Canary Island Carnival

Las Palmas parade, 2107 [Picture: Carlos Ortega Vilas on Flickr]

Even though each region (both in Spain and the rest of the Hispanic world) has its own traditions and ways to celebrate carnival, here in Spain the Canary Islands have mastered this festivity. For five centuries Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has been getting all dressed up for carnival with parades and popular awards such as Carnival Queen and Carnival Drag Queen. Definitely, something you need to experience at least once in your lifetime.

Entierro de la sardina

Burial of the sardine on a small Spanish town [Picture: Benetússer Hoy on Flickr]

The Burial of the Sardine marks the end of the festivities and, even though its name is quite peculiar, this part of carnival is fun and worth seeing. The “burials” consists of a carnival parade that parodies a funeral procession (with whining widows and so) that ends with the burning of a sardine (kind of like representing the spirit or the ghost of the festivity). This burial is held on Ash Wednesday for Christians, and it is a symbolic burial of the past in order to allow society to be reborn and transformed.


Cabezudo [Picture: Antonio Tajuelo onFlickr]

Big-Heads are an important part of Carnival festivities in many towns all over the country. People dance and scare kids, all of this dressing different old costumes and wearing big fake heads. The whole point is to make everybody to have a good time.

You can see that Carnival is just another excuse to have fun!