The Surrealism and Spectacle of Valencia Fallas
The festival has grown exponentially over the last decade due to its coverage online and now it is one of the few Spanish festivals that can attract foreign visitors as well as Spanish tourists, who travel to Valencia specifically to be part of the fiesta. The madness and noise of this event will strike you and stay with you forever.
The festival itself celebrates San José, the patron saint of carpenters. The genesis of the festival can be traced back to the Middle Ages when local carpenters would hang up lumps of wood called ‘parots’ during the winter to support numerous candles whilst they worked. Towards the end of the winter season these pieces of wood would be set alight as a way of celebrating the passing of the dark winter nights and the onset of spring. As time passed clothing was placed on the ‘parot’ which began to lead it to be identifiable as a well-known local person. Over the years this developed into the current ‘ninots’, far more contemporary in their design and structure utilising modern materials to give maximum affect.
The participating districts of Valencia each have an organising committee, ‘casal faller’, who are charged with raising the required funds for the ‘ninots’. The completed figures are placed at key points throughout the city and are now very often humorous and satirical pokes at well-known Spanish celebrities or politicians.
During the Fallas festival things start at 8am, ‘La Desperata’ will give you the loudest alarm clock you can image with brass bands and firecrackers ensuring the tone of noise is set for the day. At 2pm ‘La Mascletá ‘starts with organised explosions all over the city, the focal point being in Valencia’s main square, the Plaza Ayuntimento. The wakeup call was loud, ‘La Mascletá’ will set off car alarms and shake windows and make you think your heads is going to burst, but this is still not a patch on what’s yet to come.
Every night during Fallas there is a firework display on the old river bed, which escalates in degrees of spectacle until the final night, the Night of Fire – ‘La Nit de Foc’. This is the famous event when the enormous ‘ninots’ are burned to the ground. Local areas all have their own ‘falla infantile’ for young children starting at 10pm and then, at around midnight, the neighbourhood ‘fallas’ will begin. The final event, the grand fire, in the Plaza Ayuntamiento, won’t kick off until at least 1am with huge crowds eagerly anticipating the great spectacle. The ‘ninots’ will all have been packed full of fireworks, the street lights turned down and the firemen will be in position when the 6 to 10 metre models, which took months of painstaking construction, will be raised to the ground.
This is perhaps one of the most unique festivals anywhere in the world, let alone Spain. Words can’t express how loud this event can be. Pregnant women are not allowed to enter the areas during the evenings and the common advice is to keep your mouth open to prevent the noise from echoing in your head. Every year people are hospitalised with shock and fainting, it’s truly not for the weak hearted. For those who can embrace it, they can be sure of an experience like no other.
Las Fallas in Valencia take place from the 15th to 19th of March 2017.
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