We had the fortune of being in the small village (with a big positive attitude) of Laranjeiros on the Portuguese Spanish border on the 4th of March. This day marks the end of the Carnival time and a life-size doll is buried in a grave amidst all kinds of hilarious actions, including using a certain body part as a microphone...need I say more about which part??
We had no idea this tradition existed and were at first bemused by the series of events. In the morning we discovered a deelightful man merrily digging a grave. “Merrily” and “digging a grave” aren't generally used in the same sentence, but our lacking Portuguese didn't help to uncover the secret behind this bizarre behaviour.
Then at about 4pm the tiny, sleepy village turned into a 4 lane motorway (ever so slight exaggeration possible) and crowds began to amass (ditto). We had gone to collect some deevine spring water and happened upon this “body” carrying horde quite by chance. Many people were dressed bizarrely, there was an accordion player wandering around and there was much laughter. Of course I stayed.
The grave digger from the morning was now a Gendarme / French policeman (oops or am I outing myself here and that is actually the Portuguese police uniform?), the local girls were dressed as men and boys as pregnant woman. The body had an unceremoniously large, um, protrusion with a second one (no, I too didn't know such a thing was possible) being used as a microphone. Eventually, amidst laughter and lots of Portuguese chatter, the body was put into the grave and buried.
Well, most of him was buried, if you get my drift. I am having some hardship in saying the word without saying the word... I asked around for the meaning of all this, but each person had their own tale to tell... I can't get any clearer people!
Hard research has revealed the following:
1. offbeattravel.com says: Although Carnival is a Christian tradition, the festival has pagan roots. The symbol that has endured since that time are the large headed and masked figures seen in parades throughout the country. These ancient festivals marked the period of transition between the end of winter and the beginning of spring. This ritual of fertility was in preparation for the new agricultural season in hopes of bringing abundant crops.
So the whole large extruding object thing could be about fertility and the burying being the end of winter, so as I said before, the burying of winter.
2. same person says: Another ancient tradition that has remnants in today’s Carnival is the focus on reconciliation with the dead and their spirits. The figure of death was personified with white costumes and masks and a doll and other symbols of evil spirits were burnt in an act of purification. In many places in Portugal, the Carnival festivities still end with the burial of the "Entrudo," a final act of freedom and breaking of the rules prior to a return to order.
So merely the end of the Carnival and back to work?
To this end, the “mourners” had a huge party and danced till 4am – these are my type of people I tell you. The graveside accordion player payed a type of polka all night – where does he get his stamina from I tiredly ask? I wouldn't traditionally be the accordion type, but this was good stuff and the folks had a blast.
Break the rules and have some fun – great motto and thank you Portugal!