The week leading up to Lent in late February is when Spain celebrates Carnival (Carnaval) when some of the wildest parties take place.
There are various ideas as to the origins of the Carnival celebration. Some believe the word “Carnival” comes from the term “farewell to the flesh” referring to the excesses which led to Lent. Others believe it is related to the Roman Solstice event, the “Saturnalia” during which people drink and dance to excess.
Read more about the origins behind the Carnival celebrations here.
In the larger cities there will be partying all night long. People dress in the most outrageous costumes and masks and the drinking and dancing will go from dusk until dawn. Particularly in Tenerife there are many competitions to find the person with the best costume ever.
On the last night there is the “Entierro de la Sardina” (the Burial of the Sardine) on Ash Wednesday “Miércoles de Ceniza”. This parody of a funeral symbolically marks the end of life’s pleasures and the beginning of “Cuaresma” (Lent) whereby the “mourners” parade a cardboard sardine through the streets to its coffin for burial.
Although Carnival is a national event celebrated across the whole of Spain, the best places to go to see the most spectacular Carnival fiestas are in the Canary Islands and Cadiz in Andalusia. Santa Cruz in Tenerife is Europe’s equivalent to the Rio Carnival where you will see people dressed in the most flamboyant costumes parading through the streets.
Find out more about Spain’s Carnival celebrations here.