Valencia’s biggest festival, “Las Fallas” is celebrated every March and dates back to the middle ages. It is a pagan ritual to commemorate the patron Saint Joseph. It is also thought to represent the end of winter and welcome the spring through spectacular pyrotechnical displays, explosions and parades. If you go to this riotous Spanish fiesta, don’t expect to sleep much as there is 24-hour partying and explosions going off throughout the night. Read on to find out what to expect from one of Spain’s most spectacular Spanish festivals.
Traditionally during the winter in Spain tradesmen and carpenters used to work under candlelight at night by means of parots, wooden pieces used as wicker holders. As spring began and the evenings became lighter they then burned these parots as they were no longer needed. Saint Joseph was the patron saint of carpenters and therefore this is how this fiesta originated.
As the tradition has evolved over the years these parots taken on many different forms but in today’s festival they are represented by giant cartoon-like figures known as fallas and the smaller ones are called ninots. They represent famous people and politicians and relate to current events and satirical events. The huge figures have gradually grown in size and can be up to 30 metres high. They used to be made of paper mâché but are now made of polystyrene. They are paraded around the streets until the grand finale when they are all burned except one which is a symbol of prosperity.
The day starts at 8 a.m. with the early wake-up call known as La Despertà, a marching brass band. At 2 p.m. every day you will hear blasts of gunpowder from the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. This is known as La Mascletà. There are pyrotechnical competitions between the different neighbourhoods (barrios) to see who can produce the most spectacular fireworks and sounds.
Throughout the festival from 1st to 19th March people dress up in traditional costumes and dance to local bands playing through the streets. There is non-stop partying with clubs getting busiest around 4 a.m. There are spectacular firework displays every night and plenty of street dancing and live music. The grand finale known as La Cremà takes place on the night of the 19th when the smaller figures, ninots, are set on fire around 10 p.m. and the larger fallas are burnt at midnight. The hours of work that has gone into creating these impressive figures goes up in smoke, there is an intense atmosphere as people stand back to watch this burning and the city later is the scene of a huge dance party.