Let’s celebrate the spring: Las Fallas in Valencia
Heading for Valencia this week? Then you will encounter the famous celebration ‘Las Fallas’. This week (March 15 until March 19) whole Valencia is commemorating the spring with a lot of festivities. For 4 days long the streets are decorated with flowers and more than 1 million lights. There are the most amazing parades with incredibly high monuments built by people, a lot of firework shows and people celebrating all day. More than 1 million people visit the Fallas each year and it even has the chance to enter the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list. A magnificent experience: Welcome to Las Fallas…
How it all began...
In the middle ages the Valencian craftsmen needed light during the winter months to continue working. To create some light they used wooden planks on which they hang lanterns. During the spring the craftsmen did not need the lights anymore since the daylight lasts longer. Therefore they decided to burn the wooden planks with the lanterns. It became a tradition and each year they tried to create an even bigger fire. To keep the fire burning the craftsmen used old cloths and once, on the 19th of March, they threw a hood on the burning pile, which gave the pile a certain human shape. This was the existence of the ‘Ninots’, the main characters of the city during the party. ‘Ninots’ are the dolls on the creations where people work on all day.
‘Ninots’ used to be made from wood, but nowadays people use cork and papier mache. It is not easy to make such monumental pieces and it is often considered as a form of art. All the ninots will be burned at the end of this week, except for one. One will be saved and become part of the Fallero Museum, where all the saved ninots are exhibited. The audience decides which Ninot will be saved. In February, all the associations that created one bring their best and most beautiful Ninot to the shared exhibition room where everybody can see them and bring out their vote. These processions are often with a lot of music and noise.
What is happening in the city?
The week of the Fallas is a week with a lot of festivities each day. We will give you a short overview of the most important acts during the celebration. The whole programme of the Fallas in Valencia with the exact times and places can be found here.
The Crida is the official opening of the festival. This takes place yearly before the real Falla-week. This year it was on the 28th of February. La Fallera Mayor invites here the inhabitants and the rest of the world to join the Fallas. La Fallera Mayor is the most important person of Valencia during the Fallas. She is attending all the activities during the celebration together with La Fallera Infantil. Before the Fallas there is a wide election to become either Fallera Mayor or Infantil.
La Plantà is the actual start of the week. All the artists have worked long on their creations and everyone hopes that their one is going to win. During la Plantà all the creations will be transferred to the city centre and will be placed on the right place for the final decision. This year the start of La Plantà will be celebrated with a ‘chupinazo’ which is a loud bang at March 15, at 00:00.
La Mascletà is a spectacle of firecrackers and fireworks, but it is not just a show. It is a demonstration of noise, smoke, rhythm and colour, bringing together thousands of people every day at 14:00 at Plaza del Ayuntamiento. A lot of time is devoted to these shows. They take about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the amount of powder used. Did you know that more than 240 kilos of gunpowder is shot into the air during the mascletà? La Fallera Mayor of Valencia gives the order when the mascletà can start. A good mascletà has a perfect construction with rhythms and is held by a pyrotechnic. At the end people clap and jump along. The ‘Castillos y Nit del Foc’ are the firework shows in the evenings, mostly taking place from 00:00 to 01:00.
During ‘La Ofrenda’ people honour the Virgin of Helpless with flowers. It is one of the most emotional acts of the whole Fallas. Little pilgrimages are held where people bring flowers to the statue of la Virgin. The statue is made of wood and is built in such a way that people can place their flowers around and on it to decorate it. Which flowers need to be placed where is decided beforehand based on a drawing. This drawing changes every year. The flowers that are left over they make a tapestry. Did you know that more than 60.000 bouquets of flowers are offered to la Virgen de los Desamparados during La Ofrenda?
On March 19, St. Joseph’s day, is the end of the Fallas. After four days of intense celebrating with a lot of colour, fireworks, flowers, music and alcohol, Valencia returns to its normal state. But not before the Cremà took place. The Cremà starts at 22:00 and is the actual burning of the monuments, except for the most beautiful one. More than 300 firemen make sure the city does not burn in total during la Cremà. It takes place through the whole city and is often seen as a sad moment, since all the work goes up into fire, but also as an enriching moment, since it is the start of a new year to build some monuments.