At the end of January, Malaga gears itself up for the first festival of the year: the annual Carnival week. This extravagant celebration of Spanish life and culture is held the week before Lent, with many carnival enthusiastics preparing for months as to triumph in one of the competitions.
Official events and competitions…
Led by the Citizens’ Carnival Foundation, the celebrations start on the first Saturday of February with the Gala del Mayor at the Plaza de la Constitucion. A couple of hours later, it is time for the annual competition of the Carnival King and Queen (Elección de Dioses). The children’s competition and annual parade is held on Sunday, followed by the traditional parade down Calle Larios.
The week of festivities will end with the Burial of the Anchovy (Entierro del Boquerón) on the last Sunday at 17h. During this curious event, a huge anchovy is carried down the streets in a colourful procession, from the Plaza de la Constitucion to Malagueta beach. The fish, the symbol of Malaga, is decorated differently every year, depending on the past events of the town. Once at the beach, fireworks are set off while the fish is being buried at the shore.
… and hundreds of small spectacles
Satirical sings groups (Concurso de Agrupaciones) take over the streets of Malaga during Carnival. The competition for the best group is held in the weeks before Carnival, with the grand final on the first Friday of the celebrations in the Cervantes Theatre. After the competition, the singing groups spread out in the streets of Malaga, where they can be found all week impressing the crowds with their ostentatious outfits and funny lyrics, commenting on the government, church and life in Spain.
Gastronomy during the Carnival
Like at every Spanish party, food also plays an important role during Carnival. During the week before the festivities, seven districts across Malaga organise a small food festival with traditional dishes, such as stews, paella or cabbages. Every act starts at 13h and includes Carnival songs and different performances.
History and background of Malaga’s Carnival
An early version of the Carnival of Malaga was held in the 16th century, when a child dressed up as the bishop for one day to lead the ceremonies in the Cathedral. Assisted by the other choir boys, the tradition quickly gained popularity, with many citizens joining in wearing costumes and masks. However, comments on the parody led it to be suspended, with Carnival only returning to Malaga in the eighteenth century.
In the early nineteenth century, the festivities became really famous, resulting in celebrations in the centre as well as masked balls in the Gran Theatre. In 1863, the tradition of the Carnival song was born, which up to today makes the Malaga Carnival different from the rest of Andalucia. With witty songs commenting on Spanish life and politics, these coplas guarantee a playful spectacle for passersby.
After being suspended for 45 years following the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the Carnival returned to Malaga in 1982.