Leigh Hatts  

Burial of sardine marks Ash Wednesday

This evening in Spain many places will see a farewell to carnival known as the Burial of the Sardine.

In Madrid, where the custom was recorded by Goya, the procession with bands sets out from the Church of San Antonio de la Florida. The artist is buried there below his frescoes.

Most of the nationwide observances involve a solemn funeral procession with a coffin and sometimes a giant a paper sardine.

There are often songs about the wonderful sardine

This satirical lament for carnival may have its origin in the late 18th century when Carlos III ordered a shipload of rotting sardines to be buried.

But the custom also symbolises the burial of the past to allow for transformation during Lent.

In both Alicante and Arrecife in Lanzarote a large papier-mâché fish is burnt as ‘widows’ wail and in Santona, Cantabria, there has since 1981 been the Burial of the Sea Bream which involves a raft set alight at sea.