Valencia is a land of ancient traditions and history. Religious festivities, popular festivities, and some special dishes particular of the region are some of the many offerings that Valencia gave to the Spanish and global culture. If the Spanish gastronomy brings us delights like the chufa and the refreshing and popular horchata of Valencia, the popular festivities also brings us some exceptional wonders.
The Fallas are one of the most important and popular festivities of Spain, which are dedicated to the religious patron "San José" and are celebrated between March 15 and 19. They are a wondrous explosion of happiness, art, color, and the popular verbenas. No wonder the festivities in honor of Saint John are an attraction for thousands of tourists, which come to Valencia during these times following the recommendations of many visitors and neighbors that enjoyed a good time.
Defining “Las Fallas” is difficult, because it is a complete celebration that includes many traditions, religious festivities, and other activities of leisure organized by many commissions charged with organizing this famous celebration. During these days of March, Valencia receives a great number of people, including local tourists, foreign tourists and the “falleros” of the region, which lives the festivities as something very personal. Everyone is looking to have a good time.
The most traditional events of “Las Fallas” start on March 15 with the “la plantá”, the placing of artistic works known as ninots. From here, the festivities continue with the “mascletas” of firecrackers, the firework castles, and the more religious activities, as the Offering of Flowers to the "Virgen de los Desamparados" on March 17 and 18. All this activities are accompanied by games, contests, shows, and popular activities. The incredible final act of “Las Fallas” comes with the “la cremá”, the burning of the monumental Fallas on the night of March 19.
The Origins of “Las Fallas”
The valencian festivity of “Las Fallas” has years of history. In fact, the birth of this popular festivity comes from an ancient tradition of the carpenter union, which honored their patron Saint John by burning their old things in the streets. On the 18th century we already had this tradition, but it was limited to some pyres of old materials, which became “la cremá”.
With the pass of time, this mountains of materials became popular monuments, which were made by the people of Valentia to reflect the actual times with a little bit of irony and amusement. The social satire became, in some way or another, the main thematic of “Las Fallas”.
“Las Fallas” Today
During the 21th century, “Las Fallas” were defined as the celebration for the coming of spring, the popular fest and the critical and ironic spirit that characterizes the feel of the levantine people. With the 15 of March’s “la plantá”, the city gets filled with over 700 monuments, some of which can reach dimensions of over 20 meters tall. Immediately, the people from Valencia get out and walk through the streets with the delicious and traditional Hot Spanish Style Chocolate, served with pumpkin fritters.
Practically in every corner of Valencia we can find a “Falla” monument, which characterizes an aspect of the present, either social or political, accompanied with happy music and a smell of gunpowder and flowers that flood the fest, which makes a pleasure for the senses. Among the most special moments from “Las Fallas”, you can’t keep from mentioning “la mascletá”, which surrounds the attending public with sensations due to its spectacular combination of sounds, fire, smoke and vibrations caused by the small explosions.
Traditional elements from “Las Fallas”
You can’t talk about “Las Fallas” without mentioning some of the most peculiar elements from these fests, like the gunpowder and the fireworks from the pyrotechnic spectacles. Also, music can’t be absent from any “Falla” event, whether it is celebrated during the day or the night. Indeed, during this period up to 300 musical bands can be heard performing everything from the latest melodies to the more traditional and popular pasodobles, like “Paquito el chocolatero”.
It’s also a good idea to emphasize some of the most outstanding events of “La Falla” like “La Cridá” or the speech of initiation, which officially marks the beginning of the festivity, followed by “L’exposició del Ninot” (the Ninot Exposition), in which 800 figures are exhibited in a peculiar museum so that the public can decide to “pardon” some of the items and thus saving them from burning at “la cremá”.
On its behalf, the famous “mascletá” is carried out every day at 14:00 hours from March 1st to the 19th, which fills the “Ayuntamiento de Valencia” (Valentia Town Hall) plaza with exhibits and loud noises which cause unique sensations on the attendees. Continuing with the firecrackers, you can’t forget about “la despertá”, in which “falleros” walk around the streets throwing firecrackers on the ground to wake up the neighbors.
The offering to the “Virgen de los Desamparados”, Patron of Valencia who’s also known as “La Geperudeta”, assumes another of the greater “Las Fallas” appointments. It’s an event with a spectacular result, since during the 17th and 18th days of March, every “Las Fallas” commission offers a bouquet of flowers that goes on to form part of a spectacular floral tapestry that covers the Virgin’s cape.
Although the events that take part during “Las Fallas” are innumerable, the artificial fire castles that are programmed every night of “Las Fallas” are a must-see. Among them, the most spectacular is the one from the “Nit del Foc”, which fills the city skies with light and gathers more than a million spectators to contemplate its beauty. Shivers of emotion run through the body of many of the people that contemplate it.