What can I say? Spanish people really knows how to celebrate and I was lucky to see the biggest festival in Valencia – Las Fallas! It is the celebration of the final days of winter and the arrival of spring and it is celebrated with massive fires, spectacular pyrotechnics and fiestas.
Las Fallas de Valencia
The story of Las Fallas
The most popular story of how Las Fallas started comes from centuries old tradition in which Valencian carpenters burn old materials they didn’t need and also, wooden instruments which were used to hold up the oil lamps. Since the festival is held around the spring equinox, at this time of the year the days are longer and the extra hours of sun meant that the Valencian carpenters didn’t need the light of the oil lamps.
Some people may disagree about the beginning of Las Fallas, but it is known that the festival is hundreds of years old. The first written record in which Las Fallas is mentioned is from the second half of the 18th century. It was a Valencian government document about various laws where the fires could be set.
When does Las Fallas start?
Officially, the celebration starts from March 15 to 19, but the preparation starts weeks before, usually from the first of March. I mean, the whole city is under constructions, a lot of streets are already closed and some firework’s events already starts.
It is almost 20 days festival of firework and explosions, not only government organised fireworks shows two times a day, but also children and teenagers explode fireworks all day long. Also, the fireworks in Spain for me seemed way louder than I was used to.
Ninots (Las Fallas)
One of the main attraction of this festival is creation and destruction of colourful ninots (dolls or puppets) which are displayed on almost every corner all over the city. Ninots are made of papier-mâché, wood, cardboard or plaster and it is often 6 – 10 meters tall. They are giant and cranes are used to move them into their final locations like in Valencia’s parks and intersections.
Ninots purpose is to emphasize the nowadays events in funny, sarcastic, usually grotesque or playful ways. It can represent political figures, exotic creations, TV idols, soap stars and everything based on artist imagination.
Events of Las Fallas
Every day from March 1 till 19 at 2 p.m. in Plaza del Ayuntamiento you can enjoy Mascletà. It is basically 10 minute show of sound and fireworks. It is more auditive experience than visual and trust me no matter how far you are from Plaza del Ayuntamiento you will still hear Mascletà.
I worked like two kilometers from that place and at 2 p.m. it was impossible to chat with my colleagues, because I couldn’t hear anything just the explosions.
The Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados
It is a beautiful ceremony on March 17, 18, that honours Valencia’s patron Virgin. Thousands of Falleros and Falleras arrive to the city from every corner of Valencia and take the streets wearing traditional costumes and dancing to traditional music. Usually, something also is burning, like cars, costumes or just participants throw fireworks.
Nit del Foc or a night of fire
The festival end with a fabulous firework show in the Paseo de la Alameda on March 18. All Fallas (ninots) are burn all over the city almost at the same time. All Valencia is in flames and actually the weather temperature gets higher at this time.
My experience of Las Fallas
The view of Las Fallas is so fascinating, you feel a little bit like in hell or in a war zone, because of all fire and explosions. Sometimes I didn’t know if it was planned or something bad is happening. The whole city went crazy, nobody was working and just celebrated Las Fallas from the heart.
One view which I saw really represented my whole experience of Las Fallas. Father gave a lit up cigarette to a small child to lit the firework up and throw it to the crowd. Also, we went to park where children were throwing fireworks to each other and their moms were just watching them and drinking wine. It just don’t look safe and everybody go crazy.
After Las Fallas I just wanted to sleep, it seemed that I didn’t sleep for 20 days because of all noise. The city looked terrible after the celebration, all covered in trash, most of the shops, cafes didn’t work for two more weeks, because they were relaxing or cleaning the mess after the festival.
It was worth seeing this craziness, I highly recommend this festival, because I saw things which probably I will never see in my life again.