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Carnival in Spain

Carnival Queen

Carnival in Spain. Find out more about the Carnival in Spain. Each region celebrate the Spanish Carnival in a different way. Learn more about it!

In Spain, there are not many long periods without holidays. Even in the months that seem void of holidays, such as between Christmas and Holy Week, Spaniards find a reason to celebrate: Carnival. The Carnival in Spain is full of smiles and fun, where you may run into superheroes, medieval knights, pirates, clowns or zombies as you walk through the street.

Carnival in Spain is known for its vibrant costumes and masks; although the Carnival celebration in Spain is not as esthetically beautiful as in Venice nor as over the top and dance orientated as in Brazil. It is a charming event in which people of all ages participate and enjoy, even those with little resources. The event allows people to dress up, change their identity and feel freer than during the rest of the year. Participants dress according to their possibilities and imagination and take to the streets to celebrate both night and day; crazy days in which nothing is what it seems and anyone can become whoever or whatever they have always dreamed about being.

Carnival originated from a Roman celebration and extended throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. It can be traced back to Lent, the period of the year in which moral and food restrictions are imposed on followers. Before bidding farewell to certain passions such as meat during the Lent period, parties took place in which people ate and drank without control. Although many authorities throughout history have tried to prohibit the Carnival celebration, the festivities survived and are now more popular than ever.

Carnival in Spain usually begins with an opening speech delivered by a local celebrity. Next, the activities begin in the street, lasting for days depending on the city, with parades, costumes, contests and street theatre. The climax takes place on Carnival Tuesday, the last day in which meat can be consumed until Easter, and ends on Ash Wednesday with the Entierro de la Sardina tradition. The Burial of the Sardine is a parody of a funeral in which the sardine is buried, symbolically marking the farewell to life's pleasures and the arrival of Lent.

Carnival in Spain - Regional Variations

Spain, always diverse, boasts many different regional variations to its Carnival celebrations.

In northern Spain, in the Autonomous Community of Galicia, they celebrate antroido or entroido and in Asturias the festival is known as antroxu; all originating from Celtic celebrations. Special Galician masks known as peliqueiros or cigarróns are animal masks worn by modern versions of prehistoric shamans. In Asturias traditional frixuelos (crêpes) are eaten and the día de las comadres (Wive's Day) is celebrated in which women symbolically take power and celebrate in honor of the traditionally matriarchic society of the region.

The Spanish Carnival in the northeastern part of the county is enormously popular as well. In Solsona (one and half hours from Barcelona) the penjada del ruc is celebrated, literally translated as “the hanging of the donkey”, in which a stuffed donkey doll is hung from a rope off the roof of a building. Another mention goes to the town of Vilanova i la Geltru, 50 kilometers from Barcelona, which also managed to maintain its carnival traditions despite prohibitions in the area. The town is known for its meringue food fight, the moixo foguer; bird man character that runs through the streets or the arrivo event when the king of the Carnival arrives.

Ciudad Rodrigo, a city located one hour from Salamanca in Castile and Leon, has some of the most original Carnival traditions in all of Spain. The Carnival del Toro (Bull's Carnival) combines traditional running of the bulls events with Carnival. Hundreds of people run in front of the bulls during this curious fusion of Spanish traditions. Some run alongside the bulls on horseback, a unique feature in Ciudad Rodrigo's Carnival celebrations.

Perhaps the most intensely celebrated Carnival event in Spain likely takes place in southern Spain and the Canary Islands. The largest fiestas are found in Cadiz, in Andalusia, and Tenerife in the island of Las Palmas. The festivities in these parts of Spain attract the largest amounts of people and are broadcast on national television.

The appearance of these Spanish Carnival celebrations is similar to those found in Brazil or the Caribbean, likely because these cities were some of the most important ports during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Music is an important protagonist in all Carnival celebrations and often time there are music competitions between groups on stage or throughout the streets.

The comparsas groups perform throughout the streets with coordinated dances and Latin American music. Other groups known as the chirigotas or murgas sing songs a cappella or accompanied by some homemade instrument. The musicians perform satirical songs based on actuality. The irreverent songs performed maintain the musical tradition of Carnival celebrations during medieval times.

Another Carnival tradition is the election of the Carnival Queen. These events are similar to traditional beauty pageants in which beauty, originality and the meticulous costumes are taken into account. In fact, the costumes and elaborate that they can reach up to 200 kilos (440 lbs) in weight and need to be supported by complex frames.

Buy a mask for Carnival and come to Spain in February to celebrate with us!