Archive for January, 2016

Valencia and the Fallas!

Fallas is a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph in the city of Valencia. The term falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments burnt during the celebration. A number of towns in the Valencian community have similar celebrations inspired by the original Fallas de Valencia celebration.

Las Fallas is Valencia’s most international festival. In the week of the 19th March, the city fills with gigantic cardboard monuments, called ninots, for a competition that is marked by art, ingenuity and good taste. The origin of the celebration goes back to the carpenter’s parot, which were wooden lamps used to light their workshops in winter, which they would burn out in the street on the night before the feast of San José.

The Fallas festivities are the expression of a unique kind of art using large wooden structures covered with painted papier-mâché. High-tech giant-size sculptures are made into the shape of traditional figures or even modern cultural icons like Shrek and President Obama. A popular theme is poking fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities. The creations are on display all over the city before being burned in one of the many bonfires, which takes place besides much partying. You haven’t seen bonfires until you’ve seen the ones the Valencians light on the last night of Las Fallas.

Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the Casal Faller, who works all year long holding fund-raising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous dish, Paella, a speciality of the region. Each Casal Faller produces a construction known as a Falla which is eventually burnt.

On Wednesday 16th March the so called Mascletà, daily fireworks all the month of March, are taking place. The Mascletà is an explosive barrage of coordinated firecracker and fireworks displays and takes place in each neighbourhood at 2pm every day of the festival.

The main event is the municipal Mascletà in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament where the pyrotechnicians compete for the honour of providing the final Mascletà of the fiestas (on 19 March). At 2pm the clock chimes and the Fallera mayor, dressed in her fallera finery, will call from the balcony of the city hall “Senyor pirotècnic, pot començar la Mascletà!” (“Mr. pyrotechnic, you may commence the Mascletà!”), and the Mascletà begins.

The Mascletà is almost unique to the Valencian community, and very popular with the Valencian people. This concert of gunpowder is very popular and involves different neighbourhood groups competing for the most impressive volley, ending with the terremoto, (literally means “earthquake”) as hundreds of masclets exploiting simultaneously.

The Fallas activity for Thursday 17th of March, is the ofrenda de las flores a la virgen de los desamparados (flowers offering to the Virgin of the helpless). In this event, the flower offering, each of the casals fallers takes an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary as our lady of the forsaken.

This occurs all day during 17–18 March. A statue of the Virgin Mary and its large pedestal are then covered with all the flowers.

Fallas (6)

A further highlight takes place on Friday, the 18th of March, the Nit del Foc (spectacular fireworks night). Already on the nights of the 15, 16, 17, and 18th there are firework displays in the old riverbed in Valencia. Each night is progressively grander and the last is called la nit del foc (the night of fire).

Fallas (7)

The final day will be Saturday the 19th, the Nit de la Cremà, where the winner statues are announced and the other ones are burned to celebrate the end of the event. On the final night, around midnight these Falles are burnt as huge bonfires.

This is known as la Cremà (the burning), the climax of the whole event, and the reason why the constructions are called falles (“torches”). Traditionally, the Falla in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament is burned last.

Many neighbourhoods have a falla infantil (a children’s falla, smaller and without satirical themes), which is held a few metres away from the main one. This is burnt first, at 10pm. The main neighbourhood falles are burnt closer to midnight.

Each falla is laden with fireworks which are lit first. The construction itself is lit either after or during the explosion of these fireworks. Falles burn quite quickly, and the heat given off is felt by all around.

The heat from the larger ones often drives the crowd back a couple of metres, even though they are already behind barriers that the fire brigade has set several metres from the construction.

Away from the Falles, people frolic in the streets, the whole city resembling an open-air dance party. There are stalls selling products such as the typical fried snacks Porres, Xurros and Bunyols, as well as roasted chestnuts or trinkets.

Fallas museum

In the current Museo Fallero (Fallas Museum) there remain principally those ninots indultats (spared monuments) that have been saved from the flames by popular vote and, in minor scale, saved by some Fallas Queens and Fallas Presidents, or by the so-called Raga awards since 1934.

Moreover, the announcer posters of the most important fallas of the year are exposed, as well as other elements of interest relating to the Fallas world. The installation of almost the totality of the saved ninots during the years will make the visitor see the festival evolution, observing from the first ninots which had wax head and hands and dressed with real clothes to the last and new ninots, made of papier-mâché and polystyrene.

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