Las Palmas carnival: Gran Canaria’s big festivity
Not every day can be a party day, but when Las Palmas holds its top festivity, the party goes on for three weeks. Every year, at the end of winter, the island is completely taken over by colourful costumes, rhythm, music and a great deal of fun. The Canarians are not new to it; the festivity dates back to the 16th century. It has survived wars and dictatorships and has developed a style of its own. It is no surprise that this festivity has been included on the list of Festivals of National Tourist Interest.
There is always a series of standard events on the carnival schedule and there are few changes from year to year. Some of the top ones include the Carnival Queen gala, the Drag Queen gala, the Main Parade, the carnival troupe competition, the fun murgas singing group competition and the street parties.
If you’re lucky enough to get to Las Palmas during the carnival, here are some of the big events that you simply cannot miss. Get dressed up and stuck right in to the party mood in Las Palmas carnival!
Las Palmas carnival, Gran Canaria
The religious holidays (based on the lunar calendar) determine the dates of the carnival each year. Easter falls on the Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox and Lent falls right after the carnival, so the festivities are held at some point between February and March each year.
The carnival in Las Palmas dates back to the 16th century and it was brought to the island from Italy, emulating the masquerade balls held in Venice. Since then, the carnival has developed and taken on its own unique style.
Nowadays, there is a central theme for all the main events and, over the last few years, it has been decided by an on-line vote. The festivities begin with the official proclamation delivered by a well-known local personality followed by a free, public concert.
The Carnival Queen and Drag Queen galas
Many a little girl (and little boy since they began participating in 2019) dreams of being the Carnival Queen. Only the few lucky ones end up on the throne but everyone enjoys the spectacular party that is held in order to choose the Carnival Queen of the year. The galas are cause for great excitement and there are always top-class presenters and music. Here is some information about some of the most popular ones.
The Carnival Queen competition gala
This is one of the most important and traditional carnival events. It involves sixteen contestants who parade in their unique and dazzling fantasy outfits made using intricate designs, feathers and sequins, combined with striking choices of make-up.
The Carnival Princess gala
This is the same as the Carnival Queen event but for younger contestants.
The Drag Queen gala
This gala is by far the most fun, naughty and artistic of all. The contestants are judged on their costumes and on their ability to parade. Although most of them are men, anyone can participate.
The inclusion gala
Whilst it is the simplest of all the galas, the inclusion gala is certainly the sweetest. It is for disabled contestants.
Canarian carnival troupes and murgas: rhythm and humour at the carnival
Around a dozen groups get involved in the carnival troupe competition and it is popular with everyone. It brings together feathers, sequins, batucada drum bands and a display of costumes, rhythm and dance. Competitors are judged on interpretation, choreography and wardrobe choices.
The murgas choirs, on the other hand, use humour and irony to highlight current social issues in their songs. Competitors get points for interpretation (this is the key element and takes into account both the lyrics and the performance) and wardrobe (the best costumes).
Las Palmas carnival main parade
Once the competitions are over, it’s time to put everything on display in the streets of the capital city. You can watch it on TV but nothing beats actually being there. There are over one hundred floats, murgas choirs, troupes and costume ensembles and they all dance to the batucada rhythm of the drum bands. Everyone adds to the colour, rhythm and fun of the event. Of course, the Carnival Queen, Carnival Princess and Drag Queen take centre stage.
You can watch the whole thing right in the street because there are over a thousand seats available to the public, but make sure you’re there early if you want to get one!
The carnival in the street
Las Palmas carnival on Gran Canaria is not just for watching, however. Everyone, including visitors, is encouraged to join in. There are daily mini-parades, concerts, evening dances and costume competitions (for adults, children and pets!) in several places across the city.
Entierro de la Sardina
Entierro de la Sardina (literally, the Sardine’s Funeral) brings three weeks of non-stop carnival events to a close with a bang. A float carries a huge ‘sardine’ through the streets to Las Canteras beach. The ambience is truly festive, even if there is a hearse in the procession! Once again, everybody is invited.
Everybody knows the fate that awaits the poor sardine: it is burnt during a ritual that uses flames to simulate purification. Then, after the final blast of the firecrackers, the party is over.
Information of interest
Gala entrance tickets (prices vary) can be purchased on the official webpage. Given the huge demand, you are advised to purchase tickets well in advance.