Las Fallas is a festival, held each year on (and before) Saint Joseph’s day.
The term Fallas refers both to the festival and the figures which are placed on the streets of Valencia by the 15th of Match and burned during on the 19th. Las Fallas is part of the UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list.
There are a few stories about the origin of the festival. The most common one is that already in the Middle Ages, carpenters would take their unnecessary stuff to the streets in order to burn them and free up space for the coming spring season (thus, welcoming the spring). Afterwards, people kept adding stuff to the piles of “garbage” and playing around with old clothes to make figures. If you’ve got more stories – please add them to this post, I’d love to hear them!
Nowadays, there are even professional Falla Artists.
The city prepares for this festival throughout the whole year. Each neighborhood or street of the city has an organised group of people who make 1 falla figure (well, 2, if you count the infantil fallas, the little ones). There are around 700 fallas around the city, worth millions. Besides the falla in front of the Town Hall, all other figures are paid for by the people.
The celebrations begin a week before the 19th. Every day there is a “wake-up-call” at 8:00 (La Despertà), where brass bands play loud music and throw firecrackers in order to wake up the people.
The streets have food and souvenirs, there are tents where beverages and food are offered.
Every day at 14:00, in front of the town hall there is a “La Mascletà” happening – a massive explosive barrage of coordinated firecracker and fireworks “display” which can be heard in almost each part of the city. I put “display” in quotation marks, since there’s not much to see but loooots to hear.
La Plantà – 15th of March when all falla figures must be installed on the streets.
L’Ofrena de flors – there is a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary which throughout the celebrations is covered in flowers. In the streets, there are women and men wearing traditional clothing who walk up to the Virgin Mary in order to bring their flowers. They walk pretty much from dusk till down during the fallas.
Els Castells and La Nit del Foc – there are fireworks every night with the culmination being the 18th – La Nit del Foc.
Calles iluminadas – In the Ruzafa neighbouthood a few streets are lit and present a beautiful show I the night.
La cremà – On the final night of the festival, around midnight on the 19th of March, all these beautiful figures are burned. Fireworks and firecrackers are connected to the figures and they put them on fire. They don’t take long to burn since the figures are made of paper, wood, papier-mâché and similar materials. Each burning is scheduled since precautions need to be taken. There should always be a fire-truck nearby in order to control the fires.
And now… if you happen to be in Valencia at another time, when there are no Fallas, don’t be blue – there’s plenty of museums, beautiful streets and views, as well as an amazing aquarium (Oceanografic) and a really cool zoo (Bioparc).
View from Saint Mary’s Cathedral
And of course, finally, if you’re not into cute animals or historic architecture, there’s the food and wine!