No matter what month of the year you're visiting Jerez, you'll probably find a local fiesta going on but the biggest and best takes place at the beginning of Lent (usually at the end of February, beginning of March). This is carnival time all over Spain but Cadiz is famous for having the most spectacular pre-Lent festival on the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. It's a match for the famous carnival celebration on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife and the world's biggest knees-up in Rio de Janeiro.
The word carnival comes from a Latin phrase meaning to give up meat. This ancient festival developed as an excuse to party like mad before the 40-day Lenten fast during which Catholics have traditionally been expected to go without meat (and most other worldly pleasures). The often wild and irreligious celebrations were banned in Spain under the fascist dictator Franco and Cadiz gained notoriety as the only city to defy the ban.
These days thousands of Spaniards flock to Cadiz to enjoy a week of street parties, fancy dress parades, outrageous political satire and round-the-clock merrymaking