Carnival in Andalusia is one of the community's greatest cultural and tourist attractions. In this land they put passion to everything and carnivals could not be an exception.
Its celebration is just before the beginning of Lent, which is the 40 days prior to the start of Holy Week. This is because carnivals were originally a pagan festival full of color, joy, fun... and even sin.
This small guide will help you to know in advance which are the best places to enjoy carnival in Andalusia, depending on whether you want laughter and fun, entertainment, originality or tradition.
In the province of Cádiz, all the protagonism of the carnival is taken by Cádiz city, with some of the most popular carnivals nationwide.
Cádiz is undoubtedly and by far the city where carnival is most popular in Andalusia and it is also one of the most famous in Spain. And it is that the Cádiz carnival is recognized as an event of International Tourist Interest, a distinction that it shares with two other carnivals at the national level, the Santa Cruz de Tenerife carnival and the Águilas carnival in Murcia.
During the carnival days, the streets of Cádiz turn into a party, and this is literally so, it is not a way of speaking.
Visiting Cádiz on these dates is special because of the atmosphere that is breathed in the street, the varied and fun costumes, some of them very original, and of course, the famous chirigotas of Cádiz, accompanied by popular songs and murgas.
The epicenter of the Cádiz carnival is the Gran Teatro Falla (Falla Great Theater), fantastically located in the centre of the city and playing a leading and fundamental role in the Cádiz carnivals. There the famous and always surprising Contest of Groups of the Cádiz Carnival is celebrated, where the succession of chirigotas will not leave a puppet with a head while making us laugh until we cannot anymore. Only then you will understand what the guasa (joke) of Cádiz is.
The Cádiz carnival ends with the famous Burial of the Sardine, something that is also celebrated in other parts of Spain. It consists of a parade and the burning of the symbolic figure of a sardine, putting the finishing touch to a festivity with a lot of personality.
It is gaining prominence when it comes to living the carnival in Andalusia and it is being celebrated more and more in a big way. Málaga carnival will not disappoint you if you give it a try.
It is celebrated especially in the Málaga Historic Centre and stands out for being a colorful, playful and increasingly multicultural carnival, with activities for people of all ages. And also for children.
As in Cádiz, Málaga hosts in its main theater, the Cervantes Theater, a contest where groups from different parts of the province compete with their choirs, quartets, murgas and anything else fun that passes through someone's imagination.
The great uniqueness of the Málaga carnival lies precisely in its end. Instead of carrying out the Burial of the Sardine, what they celebrate is the Burial of the Anchovy, the most typical fish in Málaga. The figure of a large anchovy is burned on the seashore, on La Malagueta Beach, after having left in procession from the centre of the city.
The monumental and historic Antequera town is not far behind when it comes to celebrating its carnival.
The Antequera carnival begins with the proclamation at the Torcal Municipal Theater and then the meeting of carnival groups takes place.
The following day the Antequera carnival also takes place the mask contest that recalls, saving the distances, the elegant and world famous Venice carnival.
The masks are handcrafted by the residents of Antequera themselves, who with only a base of newspaper, carpenter's glue and glitter are capable of making authentic pieces worthy of collection.
The Alozaina carnival, in Málaga, is also known as the Flour Carnival and has been officially declared a Provincial Tourist Interest Festival.
Tradition dictates since the 15th century that the residents of Alozaina participate in an authentic friendly pitched battle by throwing flour at each other. But don't worry, you can also participate as a visitor.
In addition, during the Alozaina carnival, typical dishes of the gastronomy of this place in Sierra de las Nieves region are prepared and shared, such as rice, cabbage or stews.
The Dance of the Wheel and the Burial of the Sardine are also very typical of Alozaina.
In addition to the carnivals in the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga, in Andalusia there are towns in other provinces that have also made their carnival famous.
This is the case of Fuentes de Andalucía, in Seville, whose carnival is declared an Andalusian Tourist Interest Festival.
The Fuentes de Andalucía carnival begins with the popular Lardero Thursday, a day in which families gather in the countryside and eat all together.
The most characteristic thing about carnival is that specially designed costumes are used so as not to be recognizable, trying to falsify the body shape and voice. They call this costume "La Máscara (The Mask)", and there are mask contests for all ages.
The final touch to the Fuentes de Andalucía carnival is with the burning of the “entornao”, the image of the typical carnival sweet that is made in this beautiful Sevillian town and that it is recommended that you try before leaving.
As in the province of Seville, in the province of Huelva the carnival is represented by one of its municipalities, in this case Isla Cristina.
In Isla Cristina the carnival sentiment is so ingrained that even in the Franco era its citizens continued to celebrate it, despite the prohibition that Franco established throughout Spain.
The Isla Cristina carnival has not only been declared a Andalusian Tourist Interest Festival, but it can also boast of being one of the oldest in Spain and the one that arouses the most interest after the Cádiz carnival in Andalusia.
In the Isla Cristina carnival, both the residents of the town and the foreigners actively participate in comparsas, parade of floats, dances and costume contests.
The carnival is celebrated during the two weeks prior to Ash Wednesday until the following Sunday, although the duration may vary depending on the number of groups participating.
The first week, called Theater Week, is dedicated to the interpretation of murgas, quartets, comparsas and other groups in the theater to compete for the first prizes in their categories.
After the awards ceremony, the second week or Street Week begins, in which people go out in mass. In the parade, usually on Sunday, with costumes and floats, some decorated according to the groups and others independently, they go through the streets of the town.
Other key days of the street carnival are the Pink Dance, which each year has a different theme, and the last day of the carnival, Piñata Sunday.
The Isla Cristina carnival ends with the Burial of the Sardine in which there is a new parade-procession of widows and one or more floats whose main motive, of at least one, is the funeral of the sardine, which will finally be burned to carnival failure mode with pyrotechnic fire at the end of its route, which is usually Punta Neighbourhood.
Finally, the province of Almería has two municipalities where you can enjoy and experience carnival in a unique way. These are the municipalities of Cuevas de Almanzora and Sorbas.
The most striking thing about the Cuevas de Almanzora carnival, in Almería, is that it has maintained its peculiar tradition of "shells", which are nothing more than eggs cracked and decorated with tissue paper and other types of paper.
Also in the province of Almería, in the Sorbas carnival a curious tradition takes place just after the Burial of the Sardine, it is called the Night of the Pots. The women of Sorbas are given pots of flowers as a sign of courtship, while the less-loved neighbors are given broken pots in front of their houses.