Las Fallas is a historial, religious and comedic monumental celebration.
Firecrackers, fireworks, bonfires, loud music and much more.
Ninots are paper-mâché and cardboard figurines made to look somewhat ‘cartoonish’. They depict people, events, memories of the past year, often with a humorous twist.
These ninots are paraded alongside fireworks, firecrackers and loud street music. All together they construct a falla – hence why this spectacular festival is named Las Fallas.
In 2014, the celebrations begin on the 1st of March, important days being the 15th to 18th, leading to the final 19th, the large closing ceremony.
The celebration of Las Fallas dates back to an ancient tradition that burnt all the accumulated waste at the end of the winter. This was usually done in the day of Saint Joseph, a day that in Alicante region (South of Spain) already celebrated a festival of the sort. Alicante’s latin tradition consisted of bon fires, burning the old and cold and welcoming spring. What a nice welcome, don’t you think?
Valencia, known home to the world famous paella and reputed humor, took symbolism to the next level, and that is how Las Fallas de Valencia was born.
A little bit more history
In times of Franco, Las Fallas was undermined and lost it’s satirical nature because of the dictatorship Spain was under. In the 20th Century Las Fallas were also numerously attempted to be banned, but never were.
Democracy restoration saw the breakthrough of governments censorship with which Las Fallas reappeared. They are maybe not as expressive critically or as satirical today as they used to be before the oppression, but nevertheless is considered a huge party with huge celebrations.
Today, some (and we mean ‘some’) fallas portray more conservative causes and events. Others are still often critical and controversial, whether it be about a political or social event or happening – there is always a falla that get’s you laughing and authorities cringing.
The two types of Fallas
Fallas infantiles are the smaller ninot monuments that traditionally were made and hand crafted by children. However, in the 1950’s this tradition disappeared. In 1952 a rule was added to Las Fallas creation process, that for every falla mayors (a big ninot) a small falla infantil must also be made.
Since then every fallas creator/commission must create two artworks, a big main falla and a falla infantil. That is when children lost control or main participation in the falla creation… but not in the celebration!
Festival party days, get you’re groove on
The most important days are the four days leading unto 19th of March, which celebrates La Cremà. Huge bonfires in which all fallas are burnt in symbol of liberation from servitude to the memory of past events portrayed in the fallas. It’s the climax of the whole event. Accompanied by drink, food and lots of dancing and partying, an experience that any traveller should witness and enjoy.
Locals, adults, children and even the elder join into the fun of throwing fireworks and other noisemakers on the streets. A shock to many foreigners, as the safety hazards are obvious.
Ayuntamiento de Valencia (Valencia’s town hall) makes sure to have fire-brigades, ambulances and other emergency units on parol at all times and at first access to any possible danger.
As a religious tradition, it is not normal for extremely dangerous events to happen, for there is still that sense of respect towards the historical ideology behind the celebration.
Back to the big days of celebration: 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th of March, each day with big firework displays, bigger fireworks as the days progress.
On the 15th of March, ths finishing of fallas infantiles (the smaller fallas) is celebrated in the part of the festival named La Plantà. Later in the evening of the same day, the completion of fallas majors (the bigger fallas, the real monumental ones) are also celebrated.
It’s make or break day, if a falla is not finished, it is disqualified. Important part of the festival process.
An event that takes place on the 17th and 18th of March is a flower offering to the Holy Mary, given from each falla commission. The statue of Holy Mary is covered in flowers, as a commemoration to the religious meaning of the festival.
The last night, 18th, is named La Nit del Foc (the Night of Fire), the biggest explosions of this festival season. Get ready to be blown away, not literally, just your mind. The city comes out even brighter before the big finale on the 19th.
Probably the most important events during Las Fallas festival
La Depsertá translates to “the wake-up call”, and it certainly sounds like one too. At 8 am loud brass bands play endlessly through the streets. Crowds gather, all so lively, throwing firecrackers and spreading the joy. If a relaxing holiday is what you are looking for, maybe this time of year is not the best to visit Valencia. But if you’re up for some fun and noise, then come join the fun!
La Mascletà is a daily 2 pm sound of traditional that runs through the streets of Valencia. Coordinated firecrackers, gun powder explosions, fireworks and music – at a huge scale. Plenty of places to drink and eat Valencia’s world renown Paella, under Spain’s lovely sun. La Mascletà takes place almost every day or this festival season, much to everyone’s joy.
Festival comes to an end with more explosions
Cabalgata del Fuego (the Fire Parade) takes place in the main square Porta de la Mar. Fantastic fireworks displays, symbolizing the key element of the festival: fire. all fallas, with fireworks and other explosive charms parade their colorfulness and noisiness alongside people and fallas commissioners dancing to loud street music, all dressed in costumes.
La Cremà, The biggest night of the this whole celebration. Midnight of the 19th of March. All fallas are burnt in huge bonfires. The whole feeling and ambiance of the festival month comes together to celebrate on this final night. Letting go of the past year and welcoming spring.
The queens of the party, ‘Las Falleras Mayores’
Official representatives of the Fallas organisation are named the ‘queens of the fiesta’. Young and older women aspire for this title, all of which, dressed in traditional costumes, are called ‘Falleras’ (without ‘queen’ title). Each of falla commission presents a candidate and multiple juries choose the finalist.
The ‘Fallera Mayor’ (queen of the falla) will be the official representative of the Las Fallas festival and it is her duty to attend and visit Valencian organizations and well as the face of all big events happening throughout the festival period. It is a prestigious and expensive title, as official dresses costing thousands — and the competition is fierce.
More about Valencia
Valencia, capital of the autonomous community of Valencia and the thirs largest city in Spain, after Madrid and Barcelona. With a population of 2.5 million, it is also Spain’s third largest metropolitan area, with very modern features and architecture, formerly an industrual centre. All these facts sound so great but many still say that Valencia does not have ‘must-see’ therefore ‘must-go-there’ attractions. But sometimes it’s the more small and ordinary that are extraordinary.
Here’s what to Do & See in Valencia
Explore the Old Town. With two main squares, ‘Plaza Ayuntamiento’ and ‘Plaza Victoria’, a perfect place to start your walk of the city, a square with cafés and shops. Valencia’s historic city centre is nice to stroll through.
City of Arts and Sciences. This mega cultural center, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is host to a dolphin show, an IMAX movie theater, a science museum and much more. A fun day out with the kids, or by yourselves – fun and learning for all ages. Built next to it is Opera house Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia.
Opera house Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia. Opened in October 2005, this mordern architectural building has staged many stunning performances, including Beethoven’s Fidelio in October 2006. Built next to the grand City of Arts and Sciences building, by the same Valencia-born and internationally known architect Calatrava, which he began in 1995. It took ten years to perfect this building, and quite rightley so, it’s beautiful.
As mentionned above, these two conceptual and modern designs are worth a visit – both a walk in the inside and the outside.
Port & Beach. Valencia’s revamped port area has played home to the America Cup (Sailing) in recent years, multiple other sailing and water sport competitions and now hosts a Formula One Grand Prix every year.
It is the largest port in Spain and the Mediterranean and the 5th largest and busiest in Europe.
The beach is good as far as city beaches go, though there are better ones in the region.
Mercado Central. Valencia’s market is more spacious than the more famous Boqueria market in Barcelona, less touristy and not so expensive. Get your hands on true paella ingredients and maybe give the recipe a try yourself?
Cathedral. Valencia’s cathedral is said to be home to the Holy Grail. Come and see for yourself, you will be amazed, the intricate detail of the cathedral and its elegant beauty.
Silk exchange La Lonja de Seda. Built by the renowned architect, Pere Compte, during the 15th Century when Valencia was at the peak of it’s golden age. Considered to be one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in all of Europe. La Lonja de Seda was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 and is considered today a principal tourist attraction.
Bullring. Valencia’s bullring is a modern design, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get some good fighters occasionally, especially during the Fallas festival.
Bioparc. Valencia’s self-proclaimed “new generation zoo” is walking distance from the city center. Made to look like the animal’s own habitats, a true adventure in it’s own right. You will walk through different continents within minutes, who thought travelling the world would be that easy?
Rare and close-to-extintion animals and quirky spaces and design, this zoo is worth a visit.
Valencia’s world famous paellas
The original term paella comes from the one and only Valencia. Paella has spread throughout Spain as well as the world. Elsewhere in Spain and worldwide mixed paellas, with both seafood, fish and meat are most popular. And although many consider it ‘Valencian’ paella it is stated that only Valencia does the purest of paellas — never mixing seafood and fish with poultry and meat, creating two types of Valencian paella: Paella de Marisco (seafood and fish) and Paella Valenciana (the meaty one).
Did you know? Paella is a Valencian-Catalan word which derives from the Old French word paelle for pan, which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan as well. Patella is also similar to the modern French poêle,the Italian padella and the Old Spanish padilla.
Valencians traditionally cook Paella for a family lunch, not dinner and usually on Sundays — the holy day in which big Spanish families meet up (and they are large in number). Traditionally Paella cooks are men, probably the stronger ones to carry all big paella pans and survive the heat of the fire. Apparently some men have confesses they are simply not that keen on going to church and prefer to stay at home and cook the paella to perfection.
Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
The origin of rice production in Spain dates back to old Roman irrigation systems that were used along the Mediterranean coast.Best rice used for Paella are short-grain, some most common types used as Calasparra, Sollana and Bomba.
Rice casseroles were already then famous in the Valencia area and fish and chicken were commonly eaten. By the 15th century rice became a staple and in 1840 a local Spanish newspaper first used the word ‘paella’ to refer to this type of rice and seafood or meat dishes.
If you are a keen learner and cook, click here to try out a Paella recipe.