Off topic: Carnival in Spain
Thread poster: Maria Luisa Duarte

Maria Luisa Duarte  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:41
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Jan 30, 2004

The Carnival

Hi all,
Carnival time is with us again, and it falls this year on Feb 19 to 25 . The event has been a popular one in Spain for centuries, though it was banned by the Spanish Inquisition and more recently by the dictator Primo de Rivera, and only got back into full swing after the restoration of democracy. Having fallen into disuse, as it were, groups of friends and clubs got together and formed “Grupos de amigos del Carnaval”, or groups of “Friends of Carnival”, to revive enthusiasm for the tradition.

Although it dates back to pagan times, when it was probably a celebration of the arrival of spring, Carnival in Catholic countries now marks the beginning of Lent, and is a last excuse for revelry before the forty days of self-sacrifice.

Like other fiestas in Spain, Carnival is a time for merry-making, eating, drinking, singing, dancing and dressing up. One of its main features is the singing of satirical songs, composed by the groups themselves and poking fun at institutions, famous figures, solemn current events and anything else.

There are other more bizarre customs which accompany this event on the yearly calendar, and they vary from place to place. One which is popular in Madrid and whose origins have been practically lost over the years is the “Entierro de la Sardina”, or Sardine Funeral, which traditionally marks the end of Carnival in the capital of Spain.

This custom was adopted by the Friends of Carnival in Malaga in 1987, and takes the form of a solemn procession through the streets bearing a miniature coffin, with all the trappings of muffled drums, dirges, and mourners in black costumes. To the sound of mirth and wailing, the sardine is eventually consigned to a watery last resting place in the harbour.

The most famous carnival in Spain, and one which is well worth a visit, is in Cadiz. The troupes of musicians known as “Chirigotas” and “Comparsas” parade the streets in fantastic costume for days on end, singing their satirical songs, beating drums, and competing for the prizes awarded for the best fancy dress, best song, best group, etc. In Malaga, where carnival is gaining momentum with every year which goes by, the groups are mostly “Murgas” and “Comparsas”.

Where other fiestas are presided over by beauty queens, Carnival has its gods and goddesses, the “Dios Momo” and “Diosas”. These are elected mainly for their costumes - the more fantastic the better- and in many places they have their attendant little princes and princesses.

The official start to Carnival, as to the annual fair, is a “Pregón”, a sort of proclamation extolling the attractions of the event and the virtues of the place it is held. These are written by important figures and usually read out by local celebrities, the “Pregoneros”.

Carnival comes to an end on the Sunday known as “Domingo de Piñatas”, when containers full of sweets and toys are hung up, then broken open by sticks or any other handy implement and their contents distributed to the people beneath.

Useful vocabulary:

Carnaval - Carnival
Pregón - A proclamation read out to inaugurate the festivities
Pregonero - The person who reads the proclamation
Venus - One of the presiding goddesses
Ninfas - The attendant nymphs
Dios Momo - The god who rules over Carnival
Comparsas - Troubadours who sing satirical songs
Chirigotas - More of the same
Murgas - Ditto
Disfraz - Disguise, fancy dress
Disfrazado - In disguise
Domingo de Piñata - First Sunday of Lent
Piñata - A box or other container full of sweets and toys
Concurso - Contest
Entierro de la sardina - Sardine funeral
By Liz Parry © Copyright Diario SUR Digital, S. L.


Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:41
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Very interesting Jan 31, 2004

Maria Luisa,

Thank you very much for the enlightening article about the fiestas in Spain. The vocabulary at the end was helpful.

I have been the the Sardine festival in Murcia which was most excellent.

I do have to disagree with one point though. The most popular festival in Spain has got to be Las Fallas in Valencia. It is the week of March 12-19 officially - unofficially it starts as soon as March does. There are actually events year round. I will not go into a description of this most excellent festival but I will deign to say that it is well worth it.

Take care,



Sonia Gomes  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
Portuguese to English
+ ...
We have Carnival in Goa too !!! Jan 31, 2004

We have Carnival in Goa too. It begins with the King (Rei) Momo delivering his speech and urging everyone to sing, dance and be merry. There are parades with floats and very beautiful costumes, the floats usually have a theme, for example there was once "Slavery in Rome" and costumes were around this theme. Somewhere down the line, people backed by the church claimed that it corrupting the youth(whatever that means) and it was stopped, the official parade, but the Balls which are huge events continue. Nowadays it is being revived and attracts a great many people from the rest of India. The most famous Ball is the Red & White Ball, where everyone has to have a red and black outfit. Of course the best outfits get prizes.

A happy Carnival to you all wherever you are.




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