The origins of the Carnaval in Spain can be traced back to the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was celebrated in honour of the god Saturn and marked the beginning of the Roman New Year. This festival was eventually adopted by the Christian church and became known as the Carnaval. It is is celebrated just before the 40 days of Lent
In Spain, the Carnaval has been celebrated for centuries, particularly in the southern region of Andalucia, where it has become an important part of the cultural heritage and is characterized by elaborate costumes, music, dancing, and processions. One of the most famous celebrations in Spain is the Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which takes place on the island of Tenerife and is considered one of the largest of such events in the world.
In addition to the traditional Carnaval celebrations, many Spanish cities also host their own unique versions of the event. For example, the Carnaval de Cádiz, which copied the famous Venice carnival of the 16th century, is famous for its satirical lyrics, while the Carnaval de Sitges is known for its extravagant costumes and beach parties.
Despite its long history and cultural significance, the Carnaval in Spain has not been without controversy. Some traditionalists view the more modern versions of the event as being too commercialized, while others criticize it for promoting excess and debauchery. Despite these debates, it continues to be a popular and much-anticipated event in Spain, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate and enjoy the festivities.
The Carnaval was heavily suppressed during the Franco dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975). Franco viewed it as a symbol of cultural decadence and sought to eliminate it as part of his efforts to impose a strict conservative morality on Spanish society. During this period, the Carnaval was banned and many of its traditional celebrations were suppressed.
However, even during this time, the Carnaval continued to be celebrated in some regions, particularly in rural areas where the regime’s influence was weaker. In these communities, people would come together to celebrate the event in secret, often disguising their activities as other forms of celebration.
After Franco’s death and the restoration of democracy in Spain, the Carnaval saw a resurgence and was once again embraced as an important part of Spanish culture.
The Entierro del Chanquete – Burial of the Sardine – has become an integral part of the Carnaval celebrations in Nerja and takes place on the final Sunday. The traditional procession is accompanied by much wailing from the widows.