Tenerife is known for its year-round fiestas and parties, with a comprehensive calendar of events. Amongst the many festivals which take place throughout the year, Tenerife's February carnivals are particularly popular and include parades of decorated floats and an array of competitions.
The capital city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife stages Europe’s largest carnival and the world’s second biggest outside Brazil. . Over the years, much about Tenerife's Carnaval has changed; the traditional masks have virtually disappeared and costumes have become more elaborate, covering a wider spectrum of disguises and in some cases, not covering very much at all.
The Tenerife Carnival essentially boils down to having fun, throwing out your inhibitions and becoming what - on a normal basis - you aren't; costumes, masks, erotic themes and cross-dressing, for example, compose a huge part of what makes Carnival such a spectacle. It's about enjoying the satirical approach - through costumes, songs and skits - to popular characters, public figures, situations and events in pure, light-hearted fun. It's about partaking in the excess of everything - food, drink, noise, partying, fun - and, above all, it's about fun and entertainment. However, the election of Carnaval Queens still heralds the start of the festivities and the Opening Parade sees them, their Maids of Honour and entourages, being driven through the main streets of Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz accompanied by the traditional ‘murgas’ in clown costume and assorted groups and individuals in fancy dress.
The ‘Burial of the Sardine’ used to denote the demise of Carnaval but nowadays marks the half way point on Ash Wednesday; hordes of weeping ‘widows’ follow a funeral cortège for a giant papier mâché sardine down to the harbour where the ‘corpse’ is set alight amidst an extravaganza of fireworks and a cacophony of banshee wailing.
Born of the Catholic practice of using up meat and dairy products before the advent of abstemious Lent, Carnaval arrived in Tenerife with the conquistadores at the end of the 15th century. When it was sent underground by a Franco ban, and frowned upon by the Church as blasphemous, people started wearing hoods or masks and cross-dressing, in order to conceal their identities. Today Carnaval is just an excuse for an almighty blow-out before Lent and the cross dressing has simply become de rigueur.
The origin of the word ‘carnival’ means ‘farewell to meat’, or ‘to remove meat’ because Lent is a time in which meats, and fatty and rich foods should not be consumed. The Carnival was invented as a way to get together with friends and neighbours and have a massive feast in which all these disallowed foods were consumed so that they were used up before Lent.
Where and When:
Election of Puerto de la Cruz Carnaval Queen:
3 March 2011
Puerto de la Cruz Opening Parade:
5 March 2011
Puerto de la Cruz Burial of the Sardine:
9 March 2011
Puerto de la Cruz 'Put on Your High Heels' Drag Marathon:
11 March 2011
Puerto de la Cruz Closing Parade:
12 March 2011