The celebration of "el Entierro de la Sardina," or the Burial of the Sardine, during Carnival is a unique and intriguing tradition observed in various regions of Spain, including the Canary Islands and Murcia. This peculiar event involves the symbolic burial of a sardine in a mock funeral, signifying the transition from the festive atmosphere of Carnival to the more solemn period of Lent, particularly associated with Ash Wednesday.
The tradition holds a deeper significance beyond the lighthearted spectacle, marking the end of the revelry and indulgence associated with Carnival and the onset of the austerity and reflection inherent in the Lenten season. Interestingly, Benidorm has embraced this tradition as not only a reflection of the Carnival-to-Lent transition but also as a celebration of the end of winter.
The roots of "el Entierro de la Sardina" are shrouded in mystery, with various accounts attempting to explain its origin. One popular narrative traces back to the 18th century when King Charles III purportedly gifted a shipment of sardines to the aristocracy of Madrid to help them endure the fasting period of Lent. However, a peculiar twist arose as the sardines emitted a strong and unpleasant odor upon their arrival in Madrid. Faced with this aromatic predicament, the aristocrats decided to bury the sardines along the bank of the Manzanares River, giving rise to the symbolic act of laying the sardine to rest.
In Benidorm, this tradition takes on an additional dimension as a celebration marking the conclusion of winter. The Burial of the Sardine becomes a vibrant expression of the community's desire to bid farewell to the cold season, infusing the event with a sense of renewal and anticipation for the warmer days ahead.
In essence, "el Entierro de la Sardina" in Benidorm not only encapsulates the cultural and religious significance associated with Carnival and Lent but also intertwines with a local expression of seasonal change, making it a rich and multifaceted celebration that brings communities together in a spirit of tradition, symbolism, and shared anticipation for a new season.
The ceremony is held at the Plaza Mayor in the Benidorm Old Town on a chancing date during Carnaval.