Las Fallas: You have to live them to believe them!Laurence Lemoine
Here we go again the “Fallas” have started, even though there is a threat concerning the coronavirus for the moment nothing has interrupted these Incredible, amazing and unbelievable celebrations. These festivities are impossible to describe, they are as rich in activities as they are varied and quite spectacular …You have to live them to believe them, all your senses will be alert, sight, sound, taste and odour an there is also art, religion, pyrotechnics and gastronomy. Good mood is the recipe for this annual event which attracts more than one and a half million visitors and whose excessiveness is the imprint of festivals classified as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Not easy to know with certainty the origin of these celebrations but the word “falla” in Valencian comes from the Latin word “Facula” which means torch, fire being a central element, since on each eve of “San José” (saint of the carpenters and the city) the inhabitants used to burn torches and all their old objects to make way for spring. Different from a carnival where characters are built and parade, here groups of characters are built representing a satire of society or facts that have marked the past year in Spain or in the world. This is the “Planta” that takes place on March 15th and 16th. Formerly in wood, these giant colorful characters are now made of polystyrene and form a transitory open air museum, since all these creations will eventually be burnt on the evening of March 19th (except one of the characters that will be “saved” and will join the famous museum of Ninots ).
A Falla designates both the artistic-satirical work that is distributed throughout the city of Valencia but also in the surrounding villages (there are 700 in total!) groups of neighbors and friends (los Falleros) who all year round, prepare these festivities in a “Casal” (town hall).
Another important part of these festivities is the famous “mascletà”, this incredible daily pyrotechnic show whose decibels make the ground tremble and all the windows around … From the 1st to the 19th of March at 2pm, even though this year on the 3rd of march it had to be cancelled because of the strong wind, it takes place on the big “Plaza del Ayuntamiento”, nearly 300 kilos of powder turn into smoke in a thunderous show of uninterrupted explosions for 7 minutes: beware of the noise, sometimes it reaches 120 decibels! … tens of thousands of spectators are then fulfilled … after the sound comes the taste and smell, you will find the famous “Churros and Buñuelos” stands that perfume the streets of Valencia, since, for the occasion a hundred or so showmen take their quarters in Valencia. The smell of fried oil and powder mix inexorably, scenting the Valencian air with a truly special fragrance.
We can’t talk about the Fallas without mentioning the other great moment that constitutes the famous “Ofrenda”, it is one of the strongest and probably the most moving moments of these festivals, since it is an incessant parade of more than 100,000 Falleros in traditional clothes that make their way to the Plaza de la Virgen and deposit carnations on the wooden structure of the “Virgen de los Desemparados” which will be gradually dressed with a huge coat of flowers. Every year, the design is different but the colours remain the same: white, pink and red. This parade takes place on March 17th and 18th, participants often walking several kilometres in a meditation that is always impressive to see.
In another gender but also spectacular, are the street lights that although not really part of the Fallas they have become another great attraction over time.This year the falleros of Russafa have renounced to the to the lighting ignition show, there will be lights but no show with sound and fireworks, this is a decision made for security reasons, but don’t worry Malvarosa, Antonio Ponz and Cavite will be doing their show of lights and sound.
Also a must-see, on the evening of the 18th, the magical fireworks of the “Nit del Foc”: 22 minutes and 4.500 kg of powder will leave you speechless! Corridas, verbenas, concerts and various sessions of firecrackers will be added to this already busy program.
And then, March 19th … the party continues but on it is on this night that all the Fallas go up in smoke (yes yes, it is hundreds of thousands of euros and hours and hours of effort that will be burned ) …! The Falleros and tourists will be completely exhausted after all this excessive partying and drinking … On the morning of the 20th, Valencia wakes up painfully but the frenzy and perfect chaos gives way to spring and to the preparation of a new Fallera year.