The Carnival in Spain

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.


Carnival in Spain is celebrated nationwide though the loudest festivities are in the Canary Islands, Cadiz and Sitges. While each town has its own unique flavour of celebration they all have a devotion to having a good time with extravagant costumes and people in masks everywhere.


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. Music is an important protagonist in all Carnival celebrations and often time there are music competitions between groups on stage or throughout the streets, with coordinated dances and Latin music, acappellas, or satirical songs based on actuality.



Carnival in Sitges: February 8th – 14th

Over the course of one week, more than 250,000 people from all over the world travel to Sitges (half an hour southwest of Barcelona) for one of the biggest gay carnival celebrations in the world. The main parades take place on February 11th and 13th. The Sitges Carnival is the location of choice for gay attendees and it draws participants from all over the world. Though you can see cross dressers in almost any Carnival, the drag talent of Europe comes out to shine for Sitges to show off decorated carriages and some of the boldest, brightest costumes you’ve ever seen.



Carnival in Tenerife: February 7th – 18th

The Carnival in the Tenerife city of Santa Cruz is possibly the biggest party held in Europe. It is perhaps the most like the Carnival of Rio, with a strong emphasis on beauty pageants and contests of every sort. One of the first and most publicized events of the Carnival of Tenerife is the crowning of the Queen of Carnival. Girls in outrageous, extraordinary costumes parade across the stage in dresses made of beads and satin and feathers, each one more flamboyant than the last. Keep in mind that you need tickets for many of the competitions, here.



Carnival in Cadiz, February 8th – 18th

Off the southern coast of Spain you’ll find a different sort of Carnival happening in Cadiz. While it’s definitely a match for the Carnival in Tenerife in terms of fun and over-the-top partying the Carnival in Cadiz is defined by its music. At any point in the crowded streets you’ll find musical groups stationed in plazas or in open air carts accompanied by guitars and lutes. The majority of these songs are satirical; the people in Cadiz are known to have amongst the best senses of humour in Spain, and the music of Carnival reflects this. Politicians, clergy and celebrities are all cheerfully mocked.



Carnival Elsewhere

Spain, always diverse, boasts many different regional variations to its Carnival celebrations. In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria there are major celebrations centred on the Santa Catalina park with few events requiring tickets. Madrid doesn’t have the wild parties of Tenerife or Cadiz but there are parades and fancy dress events culminating in the traditional Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday.



In northern Spain, in the Autonomous Community of Galicia, they celebrate antroido or entroido, with special Galician masks, worn by modern, symbolic shamans. In Asturias the festival is known as antroxu; traditional frixuelos (crêpes) are eaten and the día de las comadres (Wive’s Day) celebrates women symbolically take power and celebrate in honor of the traditionally matriarchic society of the region.


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.



Origins of the Carnival

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.



Cover Image: Wikipedia Commons, La Villa Española de Shima, Parque España – 2014 El carnaval




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