Las Fallas

March 19, 2014
Valencia, Spain
Photo credit: Junta Central Fallera
Las Fallas fire valencia spain
Crowd
    Intimate to                 Massive
Attendees
    Local to                 International
Participation
    Spectator to                 Immersive
Preparation
    Simple to                 Complicated
Transformation
    Quiet to                 Life-Altering

Overview

Unleash your inner pyro in the streets of Spain at Valencia’s Las Fallas, a gunpowder-laced festival dedicated to all things that go boom.

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Festival Stats
  • Crowd
  • Attendees
  • Participation
  • Preparation
  • Transformation

Location

Las Fallas takes place in Valencia, Spain, which sits on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, fronting the Gulf of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea.

Chip's take

Artists and craftsmen lighting their works of art on fire amidst a bacchanalian…

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Artists and craftsmen lighting their works of art on fire amidst a bacchanalian celebration that goes on all night long? Sounds like Burning Man, but this is an urbane European version with an even more diverse representation of attendees and locals. This is definitely a bucket list festival. The excitement and fear of watching 400 spectacular sculptures going up in flames in a beautiful coastal city may remind you of another Spanish festival: the Running of the Bulls. But this visual feast won’t have you running in the streets. It will have you grabbing your camera. It’s one of the most photogenic festivals in the world.

An urbane Euro-Burning Man, 400 flaming sculptures make it one of the world's most photogenic festivals.

Photos & Videos From the Festival

Essentials

Don’t plan on getting much sleep. It’s a round-the-clock party with explosions throughout the night.

Wear protective clothing. During the evenings, and especially during La Cremá, it’s best to wear thick clothes with ample coverage to shield yourself against explosions and heat from the flames. It's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with fire and firework safety. Throughout the festival, you’ll be exposed to all sorts of blasts and blazes.

Keep a safe distance from La Cremá. The massive bonfire can cause serious damage.

Swing by Museo Fallero to view the best works of art from past years.

Stay an extra night. The festival dates are from the 15th to the 19th of March, but the final burn takes place the night of the 19th. Best to plan to stay an extra night for the festivities!

Bring comfortable shoes and patience. This is a crowded festival that will require plenty of walking and waiting. 


Practicalities

There are direct flights to Valencia or else fly into Barcelona or Madrid and take an overnight bus from either of those cities. As an alternative to the bus, you can also catch the high-speed AVE train from Madrid, or the Euromed from Barcelona.

Details

This celebration dates back to the Middle Ages when excess winter supplies were torched in an equivalent to a spring cleaning. Today’s rendition takes a more grandiose approach, paying homage to Spain’s history and culture with spectacular displays of pyrotechnics.

Fiery Evolution

Lighting fires has long been a way to kick off the start of spring. Long before lightbulbs, Valencian carpenters and artisans plied their trades under candlelight, using pieces of wood called parots as wick holders. Come spring, when sunlight replaced candlelight, the parots were burned. The pagan ritual merged with the church's commemoration of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of the carpenters, and thus Las Fallas was born.

As time passed, traditions evolved. The parots took on human forms. Today, the effigies are dressed up in costumes: the larger ones are called fallas, the smaller, doll-like ones, ninot. Over time, the ninots grew in both size and detail, as did the cartoonish fallas, which typically depict satirical scenes and current events. Polystyrene replaced the fallas’ paper mâché-covered wooden frames, allowing them structures of up to 30 meters (100 feet). During the grand finale, all works end up in a blaze, except for one to be preserved in the Museo Fallero as a symbol of prosperity.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t get much sleep. Your daily alarm clock is any one of a number of marching brass bands whose sole purpose is to make sure that you don’t over-doze.

The Ear-Splitting Scene

Don’t be surprised if you don’t get much sleep. Your daily alarm clock is any one of a number of marching brass bands whose sole purpose is to make sure that you don’t over-doze. Expect your wake up call (that you don’t over-doze. Expect your wake up call (La Despertà) to start at around 8am. Don’t even try to take a siesta, either. At 2pm every day from the 1st through the 19th of March at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, blasts of gunpowder echo citywide in an eardrum-splitting event called La Mascletá. Why all the commotion? It’s a competition between each neighborhood pyrotechnic wizard to set off the loudest and most thunderous show of explosives.

All throughout Las Fallas, participants dress up in traditional clothing, dance to the beats of neighborhood bands, and offer flowers to the Virgen de los Desamparados, Valencia’s patron saint. Fiestas extend well into the night with live music, frequent explosions, and frenetic dancing. Entertainment options abound with peak time hitting the nightclubs at around 4am or even later. Every evening, fireworks emblazon the sky, each subsequent night’s display more impressive than the last, culminating in the monumental Nit del Foc (Night of Fire).

Las Fallas reaches its apex on the final night. During La Cremá or burning, the smaller fallas are set on fire at 10pm, while the larger ones go up in flames in a bonfire closer to midnight. Laced with pyrotechnics, the massive sculptures burn at such high temperatures that the crowds are forced to step far back behind the safety barriers and fire crews perpetually hose nearby buildings with water to keep them from crumbling under the heat. The scene is intense. Under the roaring flames, the artistic creations collapse, and thousands of hours of work, hundreds of thousands of Euros, all go up in smoke. Not missing a beat, the entire city erupts into a giant dance party.