This extraordinary painting is typical of Goya, with a grotesque undercurrent to an ostensibly traditional scene. “The burial of the sardine” was (and is), a typically distinctive Spanish celebration of the end of festivities, and the onset of Lent. Why a sardine, I’m not sure, other than its burning and/or burial had a purgative symbolism – getting rid of bad habits and sins, entering a period of formal penance. The sardine may be a variation of a breed of pig with a similar name, sardina, which while still wacky, makes more sense.
So Lent begins, with all that Ash Wednesday implies.