Carnaval (and no, I haven’t spelt it wrongly!)

One of the (many) things I love about Spain is the interesting festivals that are held here. I particularly like it when said festivals are accompanied by a public holiday, and a day off school…

But I digress.

Anyway, next week is Carnaval, and preparations are already in full swing. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Carnaval is a “festival of the libido” which occurs before Lent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when I first heard the word “Carnaval”, I imagined Brazil, and scantily clad dancers parading down the street to the sound of Latin music.


But given that it was SNOWING in Madrid last week, bikinis are never going to be a part of the Carnaval here.

Instead, the carnaval involves getting dressed up in some kind of costume, and having a party. Costume parties seem to be extremely popular in Spain, and near my house, there is a very large shop which stocks all manner of disguises. Here’s a photo from today:


I’m assuming that it’s “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un, but I really don’t know. In a panda onesie. And gangsta sunnies. With a cocktail umbrella on the side. And hardcore arm folding. Plus a marijuana leaf lei. Talk about a bizarre combination…

(Aside- You’re not going to believe this, but the Kim Jong-un costume wasn’t even the strangest in the shop. That award was won by one of Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, clad in a red lobster onesie, with a cigar in his mouth, and a skimpy shell bikini over the top. Dear god. The mind absolutely BOGGLES…).


Anyway, at my school, the Carnaval celebrations are (comparatively) tame. On Wednesday, the students have to come in a disguise, which is different for each grade. For instance, the Grade 4 group have to come as artists, and the Grade 5 group as firemen, fire, water, or policemen.

But, for me, the best part of the Carnaval is the appearance of the peluche. Every day, in the week before Carnaval, the peluche gives the children “homework.” This homework is typically a bit naughty. For example, on Tuesday, the peluche told the children to wear something silly on their head. On Thursday, it told them to wear their socks in a funny place, so they turned up with socks on their ears. And so on…

The problem with the peluche is that, umm, it isn’t young (that’s putting it mildly). Rather, it appears to have been hanging around in a cupboard or similarly salubrious locale for, well, 20 years. After a few days sitting on its seat, it’s not looking its best. Rather, it appears ready for a visit (or, more precisely, a permanent move) to the nearest garbage bin…

Another of the more interesting aspects of Carnaval is the ritual burning of the paper sardine. After the children have paraded through the school in their costumes, someone brings out this gigantic paper sardine, covered in hundreds of carefully constructed scales. Each of the scales belongs to one of the kids, and on the back, they have written something they would like gone from the world e.g. war, bullying. At the finish of the celebrations, the sardine is burnt, and the bad things are “symbolically destroyed.”

It always amazes me that this symbolic burning proceeds incident free. It would seem to be asking for trouble to set a giant paper fish alight amidst a crowd of small children, but perhaps I’m too much of a worrier.

And I suppose, in the end, there was always the kids dressed up in the firefighter costumes to put out any unintended blazes…