Las Fallas in Valencia
Las Fallas is a festival held from March 15th to March 19th in Valencia, Spain in honor of San Jose (Saint Joseph). This festival is one of many festivals out of the year that attracts Spaniards and tourists from all over the world in the millions. The festival is very memorable. There are a lot of noises, excitement, food, performances and other festivities. Do not expect to get a lot of rest while attending it. If Las Fallas is calling your name, here is some information below about this much beloved festival.
There are many stories on the origins of Las Fallas. The most popular story of origin is that Las Fallas came about when artisans of the Middle Ages celebrated the spring equinox by burning leftover artifacts and wood pieces they saved during the winter. ‘Parots’, which were hanging structures used to hang candles so they could work during darker hours, were also burned by carpenters when they were no longer needed. After a while, the church decided to coincide the burning with the celebration of Saint Joseph, who is the saint of carpenters.
As the tradition continued to flourish, Valencians started to dress the parots in clothing, which were collected by children going door to door asking for an old rug to dress the parot. They would also collect old furniture and wood pieces that the Valencians would burn with the parot bonfire as well. These soon became known as ‘ninots.’
The ninots themselves began to evolve. From medieval parots to tall boxes with a couples of dressed wax dolls to dolls resembling political events and politicians, movie stars, and toreadors, giving the festival a more satirical approach and atmosphere. Today’s ninots are constructed with papier-maché, cardboard, wood, polyurethane, Styrofoam, cork and plaster. These ninots are placed with their fallas to be viewed then burned at the end of the festival. These fallas can be as tall as 30 feet high and are truly a masterpiece.
Each neighborhood in the city of Valencia has a designated group of people who hold fundraisers and build fallas for the anticipated festival. This group is referred to as the casal faller or comissió fallera. Many neighborhoods prepare all year for this event.
Las Fallas is a five day and night festival where attendees will experience bonfires, music, parades, bull fights, paella contests, beauty pageants and more. Here are some of the events you can look forward to.
La Despertà “Wake up Call”
Each day begins with “La Despertà,” where at 8 am bands of brass players march the streets followed by Falleres, in their costumes, throwing firecrackers into the street.
Every day at 2 pm begins La Mascletà. It is a competition held in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament to see which pyro technician will administer the final Mascletá on the last day of Las Fallas, March 19. As soon as the 2:00 clock chimes are heard, the Fallera Major calls the Mascletá to begin by shouting from the City Hall balcony “Senyorpirotenic, pot comcenar la Mascletá!” or “Mr. Pyrotechnic, you may commence the Mascletá!” Once said, you will hear grand explosions and see a lot of fireworks that can be felt around the city. You may even feel the ground shake a little.
La Plantà held during the 15th– 16th where are fallas have to be constructed and completed, in order to prevent the neighborhood from being disqualified.
L’Ofrena de Flors (The Offering of Flowers)
During March 17th – 18th, the event L’Ofrena de Florsis held. The casals fallers take flowers and offer them to the Virgin Mary Our Lady of the Forsaken, where, by the end of the event, the statue and it’s pedestals are covered with flowers.
Els Castells and La Nit delFoc (Fireworks and the Night of Fire)
Every night from the 15th – 18th is Els Castells and La Nit del Foc, where fireworks can be seen along Valencia’s old riverbed.
Cavalcada de Foc (The Fire Parade)
At 7pm ‘Cavalcada de Foc’ is held on March 19, the final day of Fallas. ‘Cavalcada de Foc’ is a parade that marches on Colon street and Porta de la Marc square. The parade incorporates floats, giant mechanisms, costumes, rockets, gunpowder, performances and music.
La Cremà (The Burning)
At midnight on the final night, La Cremà, the event that everyone is anticipating, begins. All of the fallas are burned, and the fallas in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament is traditionally burned last. The falla for children, falla infantile, is a smaller version of La Cremà made for children. This falla is burned at 10 pm. If you want to get a front row seat to see the main falla burn, then you will want to arrive at the site hours early.
They burn the fallas by packing them with fireworks, which are lit, and the fallas burn fairly quickly. Many spectators often state they could feel a grand heat from the burning fallas. For safety reasons firemen often saturate, or cover with a fireproof cloth, surrounding buildings, window blinds, street signs and other objects to prevent them from catching fire or melting. While the fallas are burning, you will often see people dancing in the street, throwing firecrackers, and eating dried and roasted food from the surrounding stalls.
Before the burning of the fallas, the fallas’ ninots are placed in an exposition to be judged. The winning ninot is to be spared and placed in the local Museum of Ninot.
With all the fireworks and festivities, you may have an idea how loud the festival may be, but you will still underestimate it. You may develop a headache or faintness at the festival due to the loud sounds. It is suggested that you keep your mouth somewhat open, so that the sounds won’t keep echoing in your head. Be prepared to feel the ground move, there is no need to panic. It is all the explosives, firecrackers, and fireworks being set off. Unfortunately, pregnant women are not allowed to attend the festival due to the possibility of getting injured or becoming faint. After the festivities are over, make sure to get proper rest. With all the adrenaline rushes and excitement, you may not realize how tired you really are.