The sardine is an oily fish which, apart from its organoleptic and nutritional properties, is used in one of carnival’s most cryptic and rituals which is rather complicated to explain: the sardine burial. This fun event is one of the ceremonies that marks the end of Carnival and is held on Ash Wednesday, which falls on 14 February this year. It is a mysterious practice open to lots of interpretations. Some people think it has a sexual meaning and that the fish signifies the male genitalia, alluding to the abstinence from sexual practices during Lent.
Staging sardine burials is one of the most common ways of marking the end of carnival in Barcelona. This year will see nine different ceremonies, each with its own distinctive features. A funeral entourage is usually organised on the eve, though more family-like burials are also held, such as the one in Trinitat Vella. Sometimes participants bring little paper sardines with them, hanging on a stick. There are also places where funeral goers are urged to wear mourning clothes or to burn Carnestoltes, the Carnival King, and often the ceremony ends with a meal based on sardines.
A really special Ash Wednesday is held in Les Corts, where one of the neighbourhood fire groups, Diables de Les Corts, organises the event. It kicks off with a sardine fest which is followed by a display of fire, drums and juggling to mark the end of the Carnival King’s reign and the start of Lent.