Valencia’s annual Las Fallas Festival is a UNESCO Cultural Heritage event and the holy grail of celebrations.
We have been extremely lucky to be in Valencia for four out of the last five years during the Las Fallas festivities. In 2020 we were able to visit the ninot exhibition and walk past the partially built fallas in the streets before the festival was canceled just 4 days prior to its opening. In the spring of 2021 the city was not yet able to host Las Fallas in March but they began to hope, prepare and plan for a smaller celebration to be held in September. Luckily September was a period of relative calm with regard to the epidemic and a reduced version was held. We however were visiting family that month and missed the 2021 Las Fallas celebration.
History of Las Fallas
Las Fallas commemorates Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. It all began in the middle ages when carpenters would build tall stack of planks of wood, they called parrots, and place candles at the top to provide light to work by during the shorter days and darker months. To celebrate the end of winter, on March 19th, Saint Joseph’s Day, the carpenters would clean out their workshops placing a pile of scraps and sawdust along with their parrots out front of their shops and in the evening light it on fire.
Gradually the carpenters began to compete with each other by building larger bonfires and decorating their parrots to look like local well-known citizens. The word falla means torch in the Valèncian language and as the bonfires continued to evolve they eventually became known as fallas. Each year the fallas become larger, more complicated and more spectacular and they still poke fun at or make satirical statements of people and events happening in the city, country and around the world.
This spectacular annual festival is officially held March 15-19th but there are scheduled fireworks, mascletà (daytime pyrotechnic celebrations) and parades that take place daily and weekly throughout the month leading to the culmination of La Crema, (when all fallas are burned) on the night of March 19th. We have written a number of blogs previously covering the history and the various celebratory components of Las Fallas so in this writing we wanted to focus solely on the incredibly short lifespan of the amazing art of the ninots.
Valencia has approximately 750 registered neighborhoods, with more than 200,000 members, that participate in Las Fallas. That equates to more than a quarter of the city’s population.
Each group builds two fallas, a smaller falla infantil (children’s) version and the much larger main falla. The fallas are created using countless numbers and sizes of ninot figures, which are made out of paper, wax, cardboard, thin wood strips and/or polystyrene foam. The completed main falla monuments range in size but the most spectacular are the large fallas that are 100 feet tall (30m), the equivalent height of a 5-7 story building.
Ninot in the Valencian language means puppet or doll. Each group submits one ninot, which can range between 20″ to 8′ tall, and enters it into the Ninot Exhibition. The exhibition is open to the public and there are hundreds of colorful ninots to peruse and enjoy. Visitors vote for their favorite, one infantil-made ninot and one adulto-made ninot. The two winning ninots are donated to their permanent home – The Fallas Museum. These two winning ninots are the only part of any falla that are saved from the fires.
With the exception of each year’s 2 winning ninots, all ninots and fallas are burned in La Crema, so that by March 20th each year, only memories and photos remain of the ninots of this unique festival. We hope you enjoy the 4 years of photos we are sharing in the links below.With the exception of the 2 winning ninots, by March 20th each
Salut from these valencianos,
Ted + Julia
View our Exhibition of the Ninots (2018) photo album here
View our Exhibition of the Ninots (2019) photo album here
View our Exhibition of the Ninots (2020) photo album here