Las Fallas takes place between the end of February and the middle of March and is basically the fiesta of fire! Las Fallas actually means ‘fires’ in Valencian. During the festival, the population of half a million inhabitants increases to about three million pyromaniacs.
The origin, as ever, is not exactly clear, but most believe that the festival began as a tribute to St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters. In the sixteenth century, during winter the Valencians used streetlights hung on wooden structures called parots, but as the days became longer, the superfluous parots were burned on St. Joseph’s Day. Nowadays, the festival has evolved into a week long celebration in which the whole town is set alight.
The basis of the fiesta is the construction and subsequent destruction of the ‘ninots‘, which are statues (made of cardboard, wood or cork and plaster) that are placed all over the city. The ninots are designed and built by neighborhood organizations and take about six months to create (the cost can range from 6000 to 600,000 euros). Some ninots exceed 20 metres and need to be moved into position with cranes. Through a display of art, irony and humour, the ninots are designed to satirize popular figures such as politicians and Spanish celebrities.
THE START OF THE FESTIVAL – LA CRIDA
The beginning of the festival is marked with La Crida, as crowds gather beneath the Serranos Towers. After an amazing display of fireworks, the ‘Fallera Mayor‘ of Valencia invites everyone to enjoy the fiesta, extolling its excellent qualities. Two ‘Falleras Mayores de Valencia’ are elected each year (one adult and one child) as the queens of the festival, a coveted position among Valencian girls. Nowadays, the figure of the ‘Falleras Mayores de Valencia‘is not only important during Las Fallas, as they often appear at the most significant events that take place in the city throughout the year.
Las Fallas takes on religious significance during the floral offering to Valencia’s patron saint, Our Lady of the Forsaken. During this offering, held on 17th-18th March, a huge image of the Virgin decked in flowers stands in the square which bears her name in front of the Basilica Virgen De Los Desamparados. Parades of ‘falleros‘ wearing regional costumes and bands playing music accompany this visually beautiful event.
Proving that the festival has much more to offer than just the burning of the ninots, Valencia is alive with activity during the fiesta days: there are parades, bullfights, paella contests and beauty pageants. Artistic lighting displays run throughout Valencia, as every district is decorated with flamboyant lights in different shapes, colours and designs.
MASCLETAS AND FIREWORKS
Spontaneous firework displays take place during the days leading up to ‘La Crema‘ (the fiery end of the festival), but another important event to watch out for is the daily mascletá in the Plaza Ayuntamiento (Town Hall Square) at 2pm. During the mascletá, a huge pile of firecrackers is set on fire, which creates a concert of gunpowder. Lasting about six minutes, the display ends with an ‘earthquake‘ as hundred of ‘masclets‘explode simultaneously.
As well as the daily mascletás shows, various firework displays take place at night between the Puente de la Exposición and the Puente de las Flores. The most famous of these is the Night of Fire ‘Nit del Foc‘ on the night of 18th March, a massive explosion of light and colour.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE NINOTS
Despite the constant activity, the ninots remain the focus of the fiesta of fire. These sculptures stay in place until March 19th, ‘La Crema‘. In the early evening, men begin to chop holes into the statues and fill them with fireworks. The crowds chant, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire at midnight apart from one, as one ninot is saved every year through popular vote. This ninot is glorified on display at the permanent exhibition of ‘ninots indultats‘ (saved ninots), in the Museo Fallero.
Whilst the frivolity and spectacular nature of the Crema are without question, the night also has an aspect of aspiration much like that of New Year‘s Eve. As the Crema ends, a new Fallas year begins, which one always hopes will be better than the last.
The Fallas Fiesta – Trailer