Of all the fiestas that take place in Spain throughout the year, there is nothing wilder than the Carnival (Carnaval) celebrations in late February. The week leading up to Lent is a time for wild partying in some parts of Spain when the country plays host to Europe’s biggest and best Carnival festivals.
There are a few speculations on the origins of Carnival in Spain. Most popularly, it is believed the term Carnival derives from the words “farewell to the flesh,” a reference to the excesses that led up to the sombre Lent. Some suspect Carnival is derived from the Roman solstice festival, the Saturnalia, where participants indulged in much drinking and dancing. Saturnalia is believed to have had the first parade floats, called the ‘carrus navalis’. With these pagan roots, its easy to see why the dictator General Franco banned them for forty years!
Carnival in Spain is celebrated nationwide though the most raucous festivities are in the Canary Islands, Cadiz and Sitges. While each town has its own unique flavour of celebration, they all have a devotion to having a good time. In these main destinations during Carnival it seems that no one sleeps as the drinking and dancing go from dusk until dawn. You’ll see extravagant costumes and people in masks everywhere, and in any of Spain’s Carnivals, you’ll have a lot more fun participating in the masquerading than you will just watching. San José, like most other towns, played host to its own carnival this weekend gone, probably not on the same scale as other major cities but colourful and vibrant none-the-less.
Slideshow of the daytime, setting up the floats and getting ready to party.