Every year in March, Valencia is transformed into one of the best known festivals in Spain. The city is full of noise, fire, and millions of people that come from around the world to experience this celebration.
The history of Las Fallas is that carpenters would celebrate the arrival of spring by burning all the leftover wood that they had saved up to burn during winter when there was not enough light to work late outside. Now, the “wood” that is burned has evolved into elaborate ‘fallas’ or structures made of wood and paper (anything that will burn!). Constructing these sculptures is a process that spans over the entire year, and each one can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Many of the fallas are commentaries on current world events or problems. Several criticized the government of Spain for budget cuts or corruption, many focused on the “sinking ship” of Europe, etc.
Others were focused on springtime, events such as the Oscars, or tourism in Valencia. This one showed Steve Jobs!
There is a panel of judges that visit each of the hundreds of fallas and choose the best ones. The winning fallas go into a museum. On the last night of Las Fallas, all of the fallas that did not win one of the top prizes are burned to the ground and completely destroyed!
The city is so full of people, that it’s almost impossible to walk without pushing your way through the crowds. The problem is that everyone throws their trash on the street- over 10,100 tons of solid waste and ash were removed by city workers by the end of the festival.
Also, technically the streets are still open to cars – even though it would be faster to just walk than wait for a path to clear!
People dress up in the traditional festival attire, and perform dances and music in the streets. A fallera dress can cost $1,000. Little babies would be dressed in mini fallas outfits, while the older people go all out with their attire.
La Ofrenda is when flowers are taken to be offered to the Virgen de los Desamparados. The bouquets are used to create this dress (or “traje”) that is preserved until the end of the month. The red and white design is done entirely with the flowers:
The craziest part of this festival was the obsession with noise and fire! Every day at 2pm is the Mascleta, a huge fireworks display that is more for the noise than the view (because it is light outside!). Everyone gathers to watch it, and it is shown live on the news. This happens every day from the beginning of March through Las Fallas (March 15-19). So much noise! Just getting to the city center to watch the Mascleta is a challenge in itself- so many people everywhere:
Late at night is El Castillo, or the large fireworks show. None of the fireworks I’ve seen in America even compare to this! I did not think I would be able to hear or see anything afterward, it was so loud and bright.
After El Castillo, everyone goes back into the city center to listen to DJs and live music in the streets. The city really does not sleep! The government tries to have the music shut down at 4am, but it didn’t seem like anyone observed this rule. From young children to teenagers to grandparents, everyone is outside celebrating.
During the day, I did get a chance to do some general “touristy” exploring in Valencia, which was great!
I can’t think of anything to compare Las Fallas to, it really is an event that one needs to experience to truly understand!