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Flamboyant Festivities in Murcia for the Funeral of the Sardine

Photo by Harris Vo on Unsplash

Following the Easter celebrations, Murcia remains in a festive mood next week with the eagerly-awaited return of the city’s traditional “Entierro de la Sardina” festival. The official “Funeral of the Sardine” festivities begin on Wednesday (20 April) with a mass in the cathedral and conclude on Saturday (23 Abril) with the grand parade.

Dating to 1851, the event has not been held since 2019 because of COVID restrictions. It is a pagan celebration that represents the end of fasting and abstinence during the previous 40 days of Lent.

In Murcia, it originated when a group of local students carried a sardine inside a coffin to burn it at the end of the carnival parade. Other parts of Spain celebrate a similar ritual, but usually throw the sardine into the sea rather than burn it.

This year, the main events start on Wednesday with the mass followed by a reception at the city hall, the inauguration of an exhibition, “170 Years of a Festival that was Born in the Heart of Murcia”, and a children’s parade with smaller floats.

The 12 by 15-metre sardine arrives on Thursday (6.30pm) in the Barrio de San Antolín area of town, accompanied by a colourful parade for both children and adults, and Friday is taken up by further processions and wakes for the sardine. All light-hearted, with the children’s wake at midday including storytelling, puppet shows and singing games, and the main will-reading in the evening – read from the city hall balcony – mostly a comic satire about Spain’s current political and social situation.

Then the big day arrives, beginning with another day-time street parade featuring Doña Sardina and ending with the return of the main sardine, to be burnt and sent off with a fireworks display – before the festivities continue into the early hours. All the events are free and open to the public.

If you are visiting Murcia and the Costa Cálida at another time of the year, check out our comprehensive guide to other cultural festivals held in the region.


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