A Real Carnaval Fiesta

Today we buried a fish. I couldn’t tell you why, but I can tell you that I don’t think it’s because Spain hates sardines in particular. Today was Ash Wednesday, the final day of carnaval and the first day of lent. However, following the dictatorship of Franco where religion was forced upon the people, many do not observe religious traditions out of defiance of that period of time. However, the Spanish will never pass up an excuse to party. So although I asked several locals, nobody quite remembered why it is a sardine that is buried and what kind of religious significance is associated with it. However, all over Spain on this day people come together for the Entierra de la Sardina. It began with a band and a particularly heart wrenching eulogy for the beloved sardine who would inevitably be laid to rest that day. There were definitely tears from the hundreds of spectators dressed in the black of mourning. It was particularly fun to watch the older generation because the women were dressed in long flowing black gowns with veils covering their faces and a handkerchief in hand. There were approximately 35 gentlemen wearing fancy cloaks, top hats, and carrying canes. They seemed to be in charge of the festivities and I imagined they were of the brotherhood of sardines and held council on each year’s funeral procession. I like to imagine that it’s a lofty position to hold, one coveted by the younger generation. Then again, I don’t know much about the ceremony so I am only speculating.

I had many questions surrounding the festivities, as one could imagine. There were thousands of people who paraded down the street to the rhythm of the band as the casket of the sardine was carried triumphantly towards its final resting place. There was heavy drinking, the throwing of candy to the younger children who were dressed as if it was Halloween, and a general atmosphere of enjoying in the company of neighbors. At one point the procession halted and one of the top hat guys prayed over the casket. The crowd all joined in at appropriate times with an amen and shouts of Hallelujah. It was all very moving. Definitely made my top five best memories with a sardine.

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