What Is Carnaval All About?

That’s not a typo, by, the way. Here it’s carnaval and not carnival.

Many people think carnaval in The Canaries came from South America, but the truth is that it was people from the islands who took it to South America when they settled there during Spanish rule.

It’s been a staple fiesta in The Canaries since at least 1605, although during Franco’s rule it was banned from 1940 until 1960. The islands just changed the name to “Winter Fiesta” and carried on!

Why do we have carnaval?

Like many fiestas and events here in Spain, carnaval is tied into religion. It takes place before lent, which is a period when people practice personal sacrifice. So carnaval is the bog blow out before the 40 days of lent, and a chance to indulge in the splendour of life, with bright costumes, dancing, music and generally outrageous behaviour.

Carnaval was actually an Italian invention, which spread to other Catholic countries. Because Christian were not supposed to eat meat during lent, they named the celebration “Carne vale,” which literally means “Put away the meat.” That’s also how “Mardi Gras,” or “Fat Tuesday” came about – it’s the day everyone used to eat all the meat in the house.

How does it work in Lanzarote?

Each town will choose a them for carnaval each year, which might be “pirates” or “cowboys,” for example.

Carnaval always starts in Arrecife, which as you would expect, is the largest on the island. There are a number of events, which will include a drag queen’s gala, live music, drum bands and more, and there will be the main parade when all the bands come together and home made floats join the procession, which runs from one side of town to the other. And finally, to draw the event to a close, there is a ceremonial “burial of the sardine,” where a giant paper maché sardine is burned and then buried on the beach.

From Arrecife, carnaval then roves around to the other key towns on the island, and they will each have their own parade, with many of the bands from Arrecife coming along to provide music and entertainment.

How can you get involved?

That’s the key phrase – “get involved.” Many visitors choose to watch carnaval from the sidelines, but it’s so much more fun to become part of it. Many shops here sell cheap costumes, so you can dress up in whatever the theme is. Then wait in a good spot to watch the procession go past, and when you find a section with music or drums you like, join in and sway to the rhythm along with everyone else!

What are the dates for my town?

We’ll add these here, as soon as they are confirmed for each town: Carnival Dates.

See you there!

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