The Las Fallas
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 of Las Fallas
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 during Las Fallas
. 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).
The Las Fallas celebration 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.