Fiestas de Carnaval

Fiestas de Carnaval is upon us! Walking around the streets of Santiago, you can feel the change in atmosphere building up with excitement for the celebrations soon to take place.  Like most festivals here in Spain, the Fiestas de Carnaval or the Carnival Festival is a religious holiday and this one is in preparation for the forthcoming 40 days of Lent.

The word Carnival is thought to originate from the phrase “farewell to the flesh,”  addressing the prohibition of meat during Lent. The revelry aspect of the tradition is thought to go back to the Romans and one of their many wild fetes called Saturnalia. This holiday, like most Roman festivities, included dancing, drinking and an abundance of eating.   Spanish Dictator Franco banned the entire country from celebrating Carnival during his reign as it was such a wild celebration.

In Santiago de Compostela, Antroido or Entroido as it is called in Gallego,  is celebrated over the 4 days preceding Ash Wednesday.  The Galicians focus on preparing their hearty Caldo Gallego soup which consists of potatoes, greens and for this special honouring, cacheiras, or salted pigs heads!  You will also find the shops filled with the very delicious Galician filloas, savoury crepes made from wheat flour and lard; as well as orejas (meaning ears) which is the Spanish version of the delicious elephant ears made in the UK or funnel cake from the USA.

The biggest day of the festival is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  A parade takes place with large floats being carried through the streets by the sounds of brass bands with dancers, jugglers and actors performing on top.  The long standing tradition of Carnival is fancy dress, similar to the Mardi Gras style of masks, make up and costumes. Those participating in the parade are dressed-up as well as those in attendance enjoying the fete. Face painting,cross dressing, disguises, confetti and streamers are all part of the jubilation. It is a very colourful celebration and anything goes!

The most popular and extravagant Carnivals in Spain take place in Cadiz, Sitges and the Canary Islands.  Most of these larger Carnivals extend for an entire week with school and work pausing to enjoy the festivities.  During the day of the parade there is a pageant like competition and town officials crown a Reina de Carnaval or Queen of the Carnival. Costumes have been known to be so elaborate that they reach up to 200 kilos or 440 lbs in weight!

On Ash Wednesday, the tradition of burning the Meco takes place following a satirical procession. The Meco is a doll that represents the Carnival and this custom takes place in the smaller square of O Toural here in Santiago de Compostela. This day concludes with the Entieroo de la Sardina, or Burial of the Sardine, which is a sarcastic mockery of a sardine’s funeral symbolising the restriction of meat during Lent and the consumption of  fish only. Basically, all the fun has ended…but of course, only for now! 

 
Carnaval [25 febrero – 1 marzo 2017] | Web Oficial de Turismo de Santiago de Compostela y sus Alrededores. (n.d.). Retrieved February 23, 2017, from http://www.santiagoturismo.com/festas-e-tradicions/entroido
Tour Spain. (n.d.). Retrieved February 23, 2017, from http://www.spanish-fiestas.com/festivals/carnival/