Winter doesn´t get in the way of a good party in Spain. Within the first few months of each year, Alicante Carnival celebrates the last ten days before the beginning of Lent. Thousands of people come together to participate in a range of events, which include costume competitions, parades, feasts, dances and even a fictional funeral. The carnival is rooted in tradition and is historically a Christian festival marking a last chance at excess before the fasting of lent. With forty days of abstaining from foods and festivities ahead, the people of Alicante really seize the opportunity to indulge themselves. This year (2013), Carnival begins on the 7th of February and runs until the 17th. The celebrations begin with a number of performances and the streets are enthusiastically decorated. On the Saturday, children parade down Rambla de Mendez, lined with colourful lights, and take to a stage to show off their carnival costumes. This is followed by Carnival Rock at around 10pm in Plaza San Cristóbal. With live music, this is a real street party; people in all kinds of weird and wonderful costumes dance late into the night. If you happen to visit carnivals in other areas of Spain, you may encounter the "Jueves Lardero" (or the aptly named ‘Fat Thursday’) which takes place on the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday. The aim of the day is to stuff oneself with as much food as possible. To me this sounds like any other Thursday, but on this particular day the excessive eating is in preparation for the upcoming fast and traditional pastries called ‘bizcocho’ and ‘mona’ are eaten. Again, the day is seen out with another parade and more dancing (presumably slightly restrained dancing, given the quantities of food consumed). Back in Alicante, Carnival Tuesday sees yet another parade, although this time with a more traditional flavour. A dummy of Don Carnal (the spirit of carnival and earthly pleasures) is hoisted onto a chair and marched through the streets of Old Town in a mock trial amidst flaming torches and Gothic costumes. This marks the beginning of the end of the indulgence of carnival.
On Ash Wednesday is the Burial of the Sardine. This unusual yet fascinating spectacle involves a faux funeral precession through the streets of Alicante for an effigy of a sardine. “Mourners” dressed in black Gothic costumes light candles and chant as the sardine, symbolic of the fun of carnival, is carried towards its final resting place. Once the precession reaches the funeral pyre, the sardine is read its last rites before being set ablaze. Fireworks burst overhead and the carnival is bid a fond farewell for another year.
For a full schedule, see here.
Alicante city centre is around a twenty minute drive away from Alicante Airport and Drivalia Car Rental.