Fallas

As a foreigner, I still find the enthusiasm that the Valencian people have for noise and fire sort of hard to understand. I can’t deny that the festival made a big impression on me, though: I experienced it last year, and this year I decided to go again. The truth is thatI could have gone to Valencia at any other time, but I chose Fallas. I mean, it’s basically a continuous street party! Let me tell you a little bit about it and about why it’s so extraordinary.

Fallas 2019, Valencia
A falla (2019)

Why, when and where?

Fallas (Falles in Valencian) is a traditional celebration in the Valencian Community that happens every year between the 15th and the 19th of March. The majority of the events take place in Valencia, while other towns and villages also hold similar celebrations, but on a smaller scale. The purpose of Fallas is supposed to be to commemorate Saint Joseph, even though their actual historical beginning didn’t have anything to do with religion. It started to develop in the Middle Ages when artisans burned broken artefacts and pieces of wood to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Fallas 2019, Valencia
Also from 2019, I think I liked this one the most 🙂

What actually happens during Fallas?

A quarter of the city’s population is supposedly actively involved in Fallas. Each neighbourhood in Valencia has a Casal faller, an organised group of people who meet throughout the year, plan and produce a falla. A falla is a construction made of paper and wax, a beautiful statue, a work of art…that they happily burn on the 19th. Artists make it, and it usually represents a satirical theme that’s previously agreed on. Each neighbourhood has a big and a small falla (falla infantil) that doesn’t represent any satirical themes. The fallas are completed on the 15th and can be observed for four more days before they’re burned.

The important elements of Fallas

Falleros and falleras

You can see people dressed in traditional clothing parading through the streets or hanging out at their Casal faller all the time. The dresses, especially for females, are beautiful and very expensive from what I’ve heard. The women wear their hair in a special way, and they always have perfect makeup. They look like they’ve spent days getting ready (they probably have).

The parties

All the Casal fallers have their own parties (mostly in tents), while there are some bigger open-air stages in the centre. People usually go there after the fireworks and stay until four when it all closes (pretty early for Spanish standards). The music is a mix of reggaeton and Spanish pop and rock, but you can hear electronic music as well. The crowds are absolutely huge.

The stalls

The most important are the ones that sell churros,
buñuelos and porras, traditional fried pastries that people usually dip in hot chocolate. You can also buy everything from sunflower seeds (pipas), of course, to various alcoholic drinks, jewellery, souvenirs and so on.

The fireworks

There are fireworks every night between the 15th and the 18th. They somehow get bigger, longer and more spectacular every night. The last one is on the 18th for La Nit del Foc (‘the night of fire’ in Valencian), is the best one. There are small fireworks next to every falla on the 19th too, not to mention the private fireworks that people set off pretty much everywhere. People of all ages also throw firecrackers constantly, and some literally make you deaf for a little while.

El Castillo, Fallas
I know this picture is what it is, but it’s also the reality: there’s a lot of smoke once the thing has been going on for 10 minutes or so.

The Mascleta

That’s fireworks too; it’s just that it takes place in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento during the day, at two in the afternoon. Why, you might ask yourself. Because they love noise here. Mascleta is basically a firecracker and fireworks display. It’s very loud and there’s a lot of smoke, People are casually drinking beer and eating sunflower seeds while the world seems to be ending right next to them.

The Desperta

If I had to choose the part of Fallas that makes the least sense, I’d have a hard time deciding between the Mascleta and the Desperta. The people of Valencia (as well as us, visitors) spend the majority of the day and night walking around, partying and in many cases drinking. Why would you want to wake us up at 8 in the morning? And why would anyone want to be the person doing it? The Desperta consists of brass bands marching down the streets, playing loud music. Falleros follow them, throwing large firecrackers. I could hear them through my earplugs.

The Crema

The Crema is the climax of the whole Fallas. It’s the last day to admire the fallas before they burn them (but you might be too tired and hungover at this point, I know I was). At ten in the evening, they burn the small fallas. Then people gather around their preferred big falla to watch the main bonfire which takes place at midnight. Some of the fallas are between buildings which need to be protected. It’s a crazy thing to watch: first there are fireworks and meanwhile or right after the falla itself is lit. It burns quickly and the firemen control the fire by dousing the surrounding houses (and the falla itself) with their hoses. It’s hot, pieces of fallas are flying around, and people usually move away to protect themselves.

La Crema, Fallas
And this one is absolute shite but that was my view. Please note how close the houses are!

Final thoughts on Fallas

The locals, at least from what I’ve seen, see Fallas as a time to relax (as they don’t have to go to school/uni/work most of the days). They hang out, party, see the fireworks, throw firecrackers. Most of all, they seem completely unfazed by the seemingly endless noise, smoke and fire. The only thing that really bothers them is the crowd.

I felt in actual danger at times, or at least like I was gonna go deaf. Naturally, the annoying vegan that I am, I was also thinking of the state in which the animals must be. If it bothers me, someone who understands what’s happening, how must they feel, considering the fact that they don’t?

Otherwise, I enjoyed every minute. As tired as I was after all the walking, partying and the lack of sleep, it was amazing. The fallas were huge and extraordinary, the falleras beautiful, the fireworks entertaining. The best part was spending time with people I haven’t seen in months in a city as cool as Valencia. Fallas just made it better.

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