Sweet intoxicating orange blossoms blended with smoky sulfuric fireworks means we must be at Las Fallas.
Las Fallas de Valencia is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity festival that begins the last Sunday in February and ends in the wee hours of the morning on March 20th. It is a festival that combines tradition, satire and art. Book your vacation, at the very least between March 15, (plantà – when the fallas must be completely setup) and midnight, March 19 (cremà – when the fallas are all set afire) for this highly recommended festival.
Back in 2018 we added a new design to the tapestry of our life together. We decided to begin a leisurely travel plan, commencing in Europe and specifically in Valencia, Spain. We had read much about the unique Las Fallas festival and thought it sounded like a great way to kick off our adventures.
In March last year we wrote a number of blogs about this irresistible festival. Click on each of these links to read our 2018 experiences and explanations and see a few of the amazing sights we were able to capture.
- Ninot exhibition 2018
- Lighting of the streets
- Fallas Museum
- Fallas of Las Fallas
- La Cremã
History of Las Fallas
The popular version of the origins of Las Fallas say the festival began as a sort of ‘spring cleaning’ by the carpenters.
To celebrate the end of winter, on the eve of the day of their patron Saint Joseph, March 19th, they would pile up all their leftover wood chips and junk in the doorways of their workshops along with the wooden devices they used to hoist the candles that lit their workshops. These devices were called ‘parots’.
Gradually the carpenters began to compete with each other by building larger bonfires and decorating the parot to look like a person or a vexing client they had that year. The word fallas means torch in the old Valèncian language and as the bonfires continued to evolve they became known as fallas. Each year the fallas become larger, more complicated and more spectacular and today the fallas make fun of or make satirical political statements of events happening both in Spain and around the world.
There were 391 Fallas’ reportedly this year sprinkled throughout the city, so finding one or a dozen was no problem. The 9 special section fallas were once again spectacular in size and design and were undoubtedly the most visited. Budgets this year for the special section fallas ranged from 95,000€ to 230,000€. The tourist office provided a map showing where some of the medium and large fallas and where all of the special section fallas were ’planted’.
Last year we had the entire 3+ weeks to take in all the festivities. This year we only had 2½ days, but we were armed with experience and a general plan of what we wanted to accomplish.
Fallas can be huge – up to 70’ tall and they can take up a large part of a square. You really do want to walk the perimeter of each falla because there is no front and back but something different to see every few steps. We were able to visit 6 of the special selection fallas this year, including the grand winner from our former neighborhood, L’Antiga de Campanar. We once again wisely stayed outside of ‘old town’ in a location where we could easily walk to the Campanar falla after the crowds had dispersed, both first thing in the morning and late at night when it was beautifully lit up.
Every day at 2 pm, March 1st through to March 19th, there is a mascletà in the Plaza Ayuntamiento, the center of downtown.
When we first arrived we didn’t understand the draw but each masceltà is different and the more mascletàs you see or hear the more contagious they become. Because masceltàs are experienced during daylight, they are mostly about the vibrations, tempo and building of the sounds they create. However this year we saw a number of colors being used so the visual side of the show may one day rival the sound. It is hard to describe but after each masceltà we would walk away with a giddy sense of excitement and electricity.
During a day trip to Valencia in early February we visited the temporary ninot exhibition. Each fallas submits multiple Ninots for the competition. The winning ninot was beautiful and it certainly pulled an emotional response from us when we saw it. In our humble opinion, it deserved the win and to be saved from la cremà, (fire).
The Ofrenda or ‘offering of flowers’ to the Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken) is another memorable part of Las Fallas. For two complete days and late into the nights, thousands and thousands of carefully coordinated falla groups pass through streets that have been sectioned off for their use.
Each group is made up of beautifully gowned falleras (ladies) carrying flowers for the offering, as well as falleros (gentlemen) and chicos (children) each dressed in traditional costumes and accompanied by bands and music as they parade through the streets of Valencia. When they reach the Plaza de la Virgen, emotional tears can often be seen on the lady’s cheeks as they lay their bouquet offerings at the feet of the patron saint of Valencia. They then parade back through town to their original starting point – their fallas.
We too made our way into the Plaza, and like last year, hundreds of bouquets of flowers had already been used to decorate the 45-foot tall wooden structure that represents the Virgin. It is an inspiring site to see and the entire square is filled with the scent of fresh and fragrant flowers.
Nit del Foc – (Night of Fire)
The Valèncians have a saying – our passion for fire is only surpassed by our passion for gunpowder. We can attest to that, and it is especially evident during Las Fallas. The daily organized mascletàs, the random mascletàs, nighttime fireworks, not to mention children carrying around special wooden boxes, the size of lunch boxes, chock full of various pyrotechnics. The crackle and boom of fireworks is continual. It took a bit of getting used to seeing children, seemingly unsupervised, lighting and setting off fireworks, tossing the fireworks into the streets startling the unsuspecting passersby.
The largest, most impressive display however, begins at 1:30 am on the morning of March 19, the final ‘night’ before the ‘la cremàs’ when the spectacular “Nit del Foc” fireworks fills the skies over València. This year we were able to be comfortably ensconced in our hotel room and still enjoy the magnificent display from our windows.
It is said that everyone should come to Las Fallas at least once in a lifetime although, there is so much to see and do, once may not be enough.
¡Vamos a Las Fallas!
Salud from these valencianos,
Ted & Julia