In Murcia, Spain, the three-day long Entierro de la Sardina, or Burial of the Sardine, celebrates the end of Lent, and the welcome return to a less abstemious lifestyle. Beginning the Thursday following Easter and culminating on Saturday with setting fire to an enormous papier-mâché sardine, the event also includes parades featuring an array of mythological creatures.
Throughout the weekend, classic characters such as El Gran Pez, a fish-headed mascot, wave from outlandish floats flanked by musicians, scantily clad dancers, acrobats, and more. Spectators most anxiously await Saturday evening when participants known as sardineros toss toys and sweets to excited spectators from their illuminated moving structures. Once the parade passes, everyone heads to the Plaza Martinez Tornel, where the enormous crafted fish is set aflame. The act effectively “buries” the sardine’s grip on dietary habits during the meat-free fasting days of Lent when fish is the only permissible protein.
Legend pins Murcia’s ritual of Entierro de la Sardina on a group of students parodying Lent’s repressive prohibition on meat-eating, often symbolized by the ascetic figure Doña Cuaresma. While the ultimate triumph of the fun-loving and gluttonous figure “Don Carnal” over Doña Cuaresma’s imposed abstinence remains an implicit (and symbolically Christian) part of local lore, the festival is also known to be part pagan. Some floats are named and modeled after mythological Roman figures such as Apollo and Neptune, all representing the event’s pagan undertones.