While Spain has some of the world most exciting festivals, Fallas of Valencia is probably one of the most impressive. The fire festival celebrates the feast day of Saint Joseph Patron Saint of the carpenters. It is a celebration which involves in the making of monumental “ninots” or figures that are eventually burnt at the end of the festivities. A great fiesta with pyrotechnics shows, fire parade, fireworks and the most craziest of all is the daily firecrackers. The origin of Falla seems to be lost in the mists of time and could possibly be derived from pagan rituals involving fire purification and celebrating the coming of the spring equinox but one story goes back to the sixteenth century when during long winter nights street lamps are hung on wooden structures called “parot” and are also used to lit homes of carpenters. At the coming of Spring when days began to be longer these wooden structures were no longer in use and were ritually burnt on Saint Joseph day. Today this ceremonial winter cleansing which coincides the week prior to Easter continues to be celebrated while showcasing some of Valencia’s most talented artists. Each neighbourhood would create their own groups of people called the Casal Faller who are the fundraisers and financed the making of the Falla. Hundreds of these ephemeral figures are placed in all corners of the city, all will be burnt but one will be spared. Artisans, painters, sculptors would start working months ahead after thematic themes have been agreed by the Falla committee. Elaborate structures made from wood and papier mâché may reach up over 20 metres high. Some are handsomely crafted where imagination and criticism know no boundaries. These would include provocative postures humoristic satirical caricature portraits of Spanish politicians and world celebrities. Here is one of the award winning Falla, inspired from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty entitled Malefics, an impressive monumental art work beautifully designed with detailed structures of the figures incorporating satirical portraits of leaders.
More of these ephemeral effigies are dispersed around the city along with other smaller size Falla made for children.
Monumental figures are painstakingly crafted throughout the year to finally meet their fateful destiny and by March 15 is “La Planta”, that is when the Falla Infantiles and Falla Mayores are installed in properly designated areas. In the early morning throughout the Falla celebrations processions of musicians and finely dressed Falleras and Falleros would parade along the city.
At the main square of the City Hall at the Plaza Ayuntamiento is the monumental Falla representing the Master carpenter made from wood created by the Falla artist Manolo Garcia who has been participating since the early 70’s. Here he is proudly posing in front of his soon to be burnt sculpture.
At nightfall, the Fallas are so well illuminated that this is my favourite moment to really enjoy the living beauty of these monumental figures. One of the best place to get into the real mood of Fallas is around the Ruzafa quarter, the city’s most trendy and hip place where sound and light show takes place. Most of the streets within the old city are closed so be ready to do lots of walking. Otherwise some streets at night are strewn with people having fun cooking their paella on log fires.
For five consecutive days the city of Valencia is a bursting volcano of firecrackers smoke and loud noise. For gunpowder lovers the “mascleta” or coordinated firecrackers placed along squares of the city which begins daily at 2pm is certainly not to be missed. The most important are those placed at the square of the City Hall at the Plaza Ajuntamiento when the Fallera Mayore dressed in her most beautiful costume from the balcony of the City Hall would give sign to begin the show.
On March 17 and March 18 in the afternoon is the “offrenda”, a religious procession,later added to the Fallas which takes place in front of the Basilica to honour the Lady of Valencia. The event continues till early morning followed by fireworks “La Nit del Foc”. Fallas celebration culminates on the 19 March day of Saint Joseph when “La Crèma” the day of the burning takes places at 10 p.m ending with the large effigies which finishes around 1 a.m. The “Crèma” begins first with the small Falla dedicated to children and one of the best place to be is at the City Hall where you can see elaborately dressed junior and senior Falleras who will ignite the fire for the final night. People are already gathering around the square, some even arrived hours ahead to avoid crowds. Within the square firemen are ready for action as soon as the fire starts. The fire show begins with Sofia Soler this year’s junior Fallera Infantil of Valencia igniting the first fire for the children Falla. Fireworks, firecrackers and music fill the still evening air of Valencia while the fire sparks towards the Falla engulfing it in flames.
As the fire slowly burns the remaining Falla, the Falleras Infantiles began to slowly walk towards the burning effigies with very moving attitude bidding farewell with some in tears while watching the last of the “ninots” fall to the ground.
Once the burning of the effigies at the City Hall is triggered, a sign for the other Fallas in the whole city to be burned. This is probably the busiest day of the year for the firemen. Next burning show are the monumental effigies. Alicia Moreno this year’s Fallera Mayor of Valencia and her maids of honour are already gathering around the giant figures for a photo shoot prior to igniting the fire. Once again firecrackers, fireworks alongside music fill the stillness of the night with the fire slowly rising from within the figures before bursting into fabulous flames pulling the effigies down to the ground. Within minutes firemen surround the place ready to extinguish the fire. The burning of the effigies mark the end of the festivities and so begins the new Fallas for the next year with more excitement fun and crazy noise. Fallas of Valencia is surely one of Spain most unique and wildest festival. I would certainly recommend this impressive and spectacular fire fiesta for anyone visiting Spain.
To get more information for the next Fallas Festival
Avda. Cortes Valencianas,
41 – 46015 Valencia
Tel 34 963 606 353 – 34 963 390 390
Categories: Falla in Valencia