No sooner have the Christmas lights come down and in true Spanish style we are upon the first major festival of the year Carnival.
Carnival is basically the last big celebration before Lent begins. Lent, which lasts for 40 days (excluding Sundays), starts on Ash Wednesday (which in 2015 is Feb 18th) and finishes on Easter Sunday with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Lent was typically a time of abstinence and penance with some people giving up what they deemed as luxuries. Chocolates, sweets cigarettes and alcohol were always candidates for sacrifice during lent.
Children often gave up sweets, with Easter eggs being the treat at the end for their sacrifice. Nowadays however, we seem to be less likely to deprive ourselves of any luxury and I include myself in that statement. I can however thank the year I went off sugar in my tea and after the 40 days I never went back.
Carnival in the south of Spain is basically the last party before lent begins. In Andalucía it has a very strong musical theme; with musical competitions take place in Cadiz, Huelva, Isla Cristina and Ayamonte to name but a few.
The musical groups which compete in Carnival are not your common street band, but usually a group of friends or co-workers who compose a song that treats a common theme with irony and sarcasm. Politicians, the health service, the Euro, Ireland, the economic crisis are common topics that will undoubtedly come in for a severe pasting this year.
The festival on the street may not be like Rio de Janeiro, simply because it is winter here, but the parades (Gran Cabalgata de Carnival) are well worth taking the time out to see. And for those of you who venture out to socialize during Carnival in Ayamonte some sort of a costume is expected.
Carnival ends on Ash Wednesday with the Burial of the Sardine (Entierro de la Sardina), which is usually a giant cardboard sardine which is set on fire at the end of the parade. The sardine represents Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ.
The majority of the activities in Ayamonte are based around the Cardenio Theatre where the musical competition takes place and the whole street is closed off for the Carnival week. There are also some parades in fancy dress by the local schools with the Gran Cabalgata being the biggest parade of them all.
To find out what’s on and where, have a look at our events guide closer to the dates stated above as the official times are not published until nearer the occasion.