The crazy ways to celebrate carnival in Spain

As carnival gets underway across Spain next week, The Local gives you the run down on where to see some of Spain's wackiest celebrations.

The crazy ways to celebrate carnival in Spain
Revellers dressed as clowns for carnival in Cadiz. Photo: AFP
Running from February 19th until Ash Wednesday on February 26th carnival week is a big deal in Spain. It is celebrated in dozens of different ways across Spain. Here are some of the biggest and more unusual parties.  
Mud madness 

Photo: AFP
If you’re spending Carnival in Galicia, chances are you’ll get more than just a spot of rain. So why not take it a step further and get involved in a full-on mud battle? Entroido Carnival, in the town of Laza, sees locals engaged in a friendly war where rags drenched in mud are thrown at random at everyone taking part.
Grotesque grins 

Photo: AFP
Entroido Carnival in Laza also offers an alternative to those who don’t want to wash mud out of their hair for a week. Os Peliqueiros, seen in the image wearing odd traditional clothing and creepy masks, are ancestral figures thought to represent Galician taxmen in the 16th century. Up to 150 run through the streets of this small town in northern Spain, whipping anyone who gets in their way.
Santa Cruz carnival, Tenerife 

Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP

Billed as the best place to celebrate carnival outside of Rio de Janiero, the Santa Cruz carnival in Tenerife runs from Wednesday 19t February to Sunday 1st March. It  draws crowds of 400,000 and involves street parties, parades, satirical street bands and of course, the crowning of a carnival queen. Full details of events found HERE:

Drag queen election

Photo: AFP
You can't get much glitzier than the annual carnival celebration in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria. The surreal nature and extravagant costumes seen at each year’s pageant are a feast for the senses, making the event just as popular as the standard Carnival Queen election in neighbouring Tenerife. Anyone can take part in the drag gala, but only a handful of women have taken to the stage since the celebration began in 1998.
Where the wild things are 

Photo: AFP
If you fancy reliving some childhood nightmares head to the village of Piasca in Cantabria, northern Spain. There you will find half of the locals covered in animal skins and wearing unnerving animalistic masks, who will no doubt chase you away with their brooms. Another tradition of the so-called Zamarrones Carnival involves going from door to door begging for sausages, eggs and bacon while heading to the neighbouring village of Los Cos.

Carnival of Carrizo de la Ribera, Leon

Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

Another carnival with cowbells, this time, locals dress up as characters called 'antruejos' (shown in picture, above), terrifying looking figures that you definitely wouldn't want to meet on a dark night. 

Powder party


Photo: AFP
Los Indianos festival sees thousands of people dressed in white take to the streets of La Palma (Canaries) and chuck talcum powder at each other for hours on end. The fiesta’s name refers to the Canarian migrants who sought a better life in Latin America in the 19th century and were greeted warmly on their return to the island of La Palma. As for the talcum tossing, it's thought to be linked to the disinfectant powder sprinkled on the travellers to avoid the spread of disease.
Load of bull?

Photo: AFP
It may come as no surprise that one Spanish town has linked two of the country’s greatest traditions together: bull running and Carnival. After all, if being chased by a 700-kilo beast seemed foolish enough already, doing it in fancy dress seems to make sense somehow. Head to Ciudad Rodrigo near Salamanca (west Spain) for El Carnaval del Toro.
Burial of the sardine

Photo: AFP
Celebrations turn a bit too surreal in many parts of Spain when on Ash Wednesday the streets are jam-packed with fake weeping widows, men and women, who follow a giant polystyrene sardine to its burial. The message behind the funeral parody is more symbolic than it may initially seem: the sardine represents life’s excesses and its burning at the stake, the purge of such vices and the rebirth of our souls. 

Basque bigfoots

Photo: AFP
Old habits die hard, especially ancient ones in the Basque Country and Navarre. Carnival traditions in the villages of Ituren and Zubieta (Navarre) see locals dress up as wild beasts from head to toe as they march through the streets escorted by Joalduns, “those who carry the bells” to scare away the evil spirits. Similar medieval traditions revolving around farming and animal herding are also found in Slovenia and Bulgaria.
Meet the giants

In Solsona, Catalonia, carnival festivities have a long history. Under Franco, the celebrations were forbidden; however, the city was the first to begin celebrating again after his death. This carnival gives you the opportunity to experience some Catalan culture traditions, chief among them the parade of the gegants or the symbolic hanging of the (Catalan) donkey.

Arrival of the birds


The carnival in Villarrobledo is another one with a long history which goes back to the 19th century. Traditionally, the festivities begin on Thursday with the Llegada de los Juanes, a parade of people wearing bird masks. They are the opening act for ten days full of costumes, fun and fiestas. There is also a children's carnival with its own costume competition.

Carnaval del Vino de Haro


In La Rioja, fans of classy celebrations might find exactly what they are looking for. This year's celebrations follow a Murder on the Orient Express theme, with wine playing a major role. Local bodegas present their latest creations. Salute!

Gay carnival in Sitges

More than 250,000 people flock to the coastal town of Sitges about 35 kilometres from Barcelona for one of the biggest gay carnivals in the world. Starting on Tuesday 18th to Wednesday February 26th, the week is packed with parades, parties and shows and the gay-friendly town opens its doors to thousands of revellers. By the way, this one is also said to be one of the safest street festivals of the world. Best party night is on Saturday!

Drink and dress up

A carnival choir entertains the crowds in Cadiz. Photo: AFP

The carnival in Cádiz is one of the most famous in Spain, dating back to the 16th century. These days it's all about dressing up and poking fun at politicians and people in the news, as well as the usual eating and drinking of course.


Antisemitism row breaks out after Spanish town stages Holocaust parade for carnival

It wouldn't be carnival in Spain without a bit of controversy over chosen themes. But one town in Spain has really taken it too far.

Antisemitism row breaks out after Spanish town stages Holocaust parade for carnival
Photos by Dimas Donate

Young children paraded through the streets with yellow stars sewn to their left lapels, dancers in striped pyjamas waving Israeli flags and behind them officers  in SS Waffen uniforms toting machine guns.

Welcome to the carnival procession in Las Mesas, a town in Cuenca province of Castilla-La Mancha, when a cultural association chose the Holocaust as their theme for celebration.

The display continued with a swastika wearing dominatrix brandishing her whip and flanked by dobermans atop a float designed to recreate Auschwitz, complete with twin chimneys.

The whole procession was choreographed to a Rosalia song. Another float represented the gates of the death camp with the infamous slogan “Arbeit macht frei“ – work sets you free” and yet another was a representation of a German tank.

Watch a video clip of the carnival parade below:

Pictures from the event were posted on social media and quickly drew criticism from the Israeli Embassy in Spain which condemned the “blatant display of antisemitism” from the Asociación Cultural El Chaparral, which organised the event.

“My revulsion and total rejection of the atrocious banalization of the #Holocaust that took place at the Carnival of Campo de Criptana. It is an affront to the memory of the victims of the Shoá and an intolerable display of #antisemitism,” wrote Israeli ambassador to Madrid, Rodica Radian-Gordon.

It also produced strong condemnation on social media across Spain with the slogan #EsFascismoNoesCarnaval (Fascism is not for Carnival) becoming a trending topic.


Dimas Donate, a local school teacher witnessed the parade and was absolutely appalled. He took photographs which he has shared with The Local Spain because he simply couldn't believe his eyes.

The parade included kids dressed as Jewish children with yellow stars pinned to their chests. Photo by Dimas Donate.

“The reaction of the people around me seemed to suggest they were not aware of what was happening,”he told The Local Spain. “That's what happens when you normalize fascism at a party, it's taken as a party.”

The city council of Campo de Criptana, the authority responsible for staging the carnival event was forced to release a statement on Tuesday distancing itself from the misguided choice of theme.

A statement explained that although the cultural association had stated its intention to represent the Holocaust as a carnival theme, the understanding was that it would be in a way that would be “a tribute to the millions of people who unjustly died in the extermination that took place during the Second World War”.  

“As stated in his request to participate in the regional parade of the municipality, the assembly intends to make mention of one of the most dishonorable events in the history of mankind: the Holocaust,” says the City Council.

Permission for the parade was granted, the statement explained, because it was expected to represent a “strong condemnation of the Holocaust”.

“However, once we saw the display we share the criticisms it produced. If the initial objective was to commemorate the victims, it is clear that it has not been achieved,” the statement concluded.

Further parades planned for carnival events by the same troupe in neighbouring towns have now been cancelled.