Murcia, a city in Southeastern Spain celebrates the end of Lent with a huge fiesta celebrating the end of the carnival and other festivities.
The “Entierro de la Sardina” is a tradition that ends Carnival in different locations around Spain; Barcelona, Ibiza, Fuentesnuevas in Leon, or Las Palmas de Gran Canaria all celebrate this in some way.
This particular event in Murcia stands out from similar celebrations as other locations celebrate this on Ash Wednesday. In Murcia, the celebration is the weekend following Easter.
Dating back to 1850, first-year local students made up a small parade to celebrate the end of fasting at lent.
The sardine figure was included as the students were tired of eating sardines. This festival caught the imagination of the Murcian people, traditionally meat isn´t eaten at Eastertime so it was a good enough reason to celebrate.
The fasting over Easter had passed and they could eat meat again and leave the solemn holy week behind.
The tradition grew more and more popular over the years and into what it is today. A huge street party and now it’s a festival which has been declared of International Touristic Interest. So what happens when you visit Murcia to experience this fiesta?
There are three different parades through the city center. On Friday night celebrations begin with the Testamento de la Sardina. This first parade is to announce the Sardine that it will be burned tomorrow.
Almost like reading the last rites ahead of the cremation and huge bonfire which happens at midnight on Saturday.
This colorful parade has marching band, dancers, acrobats, flag bearers, and all the people involved in the celebration. Of course, the sardine has its own float closing the parade.
On the big day which is Saturday, there is a parade in the daytime leaving the city center and moving up to the Plaza Circular. Finally, some loud rockets are set off (no Spanish festival is complete without these).
Small toys and whistles are handed to children lining the streets by the Sardinero. There are also lots of marching bands around the city during the morning and afternoon to liven up the crowds between the parades.
On Saturday night the main cavalcade is huge. Beginning at 9 pm the festivities last until past 2 am. This long procession has three parts.
The first part is mainly advertising. Leaflets are handed out from local businesses. This gives you time to find a good spot to see the parade.
The second part features stilt walkers and street artists. Marching bands and fun creatures parade through the crowds. Along with dancers, acrobats, and flag bearers.
The third part of the procession is what everyone is waiting for. Around 30 huge carnival floats laden with toys and gifts for the crowds. Footballs, teddy bears, sweets, small toys, and other items.
The floats are themed by the Gods of Olympus. The entire fiesta is accompanied by the sound of whistles. Because on the first day of the festival some of the sardineros give out whistles.
Some people even take their own. The whistle is heard constantly during the festivities. Along with the music from the marching bands and the bangs from the rockets. Certainly, it is not a festival for those who don´t like noise.