The carnivals are eminently popular festivities that date back to the times when Lent was observed.
Their basic components are: fancy dress, murgas (street musician bands), comparsas (procession groups), quartets, choirs, carriages and dancing, all of this with a mixture of imagination and irony used to criticise some things and discover some truths.
Malaga had a long tradition of carnivals, until 1932, when they were only held for two days, due to the situation of unemployment and famine. The atmosphere was hostile and the festivities and the park presented a desolate aspect that contrasted with the hustle and bustle and enthusiasm of other years. In 1935 they disappeared altogether and were not held again until 1980.
The First Festival of Murgas and Comparsas was held in 1981 at the Cervantes Theatre. This new phase was organised by the "Friends of the Carnival", comprised of a representative of each one of the murgas in existence.
The celebrations last for 10 days, around Ash Wednesday, although in the preceding weeks the carnival is in the air with get-togethers to eat thick soups and cabbage stews, organised by some of the groups, and the preliminary selection of choirs and singing bands for the Carnival contests. On the Friday, the grand final of these is held at the Cervantes Theatre; on the Saturday the god and goddess of the Carnivals are chosen, followed by a street parade. On the Sunday, the grand carnival parade takes place, with different groups performing on a number of stages, and on Saturday the Carnival Ball is held, organised by the City Carnival Foundation and the Malaga Peñas (social clubs) Federation. Finally, the Grand Procession of Mourning and Burial of the Anchovy, held on the Sunday, marks the end of the Carnivals, and is followed by fireworks on the seashore.