Originally started as a feast day for St. Joseph, Las Fallas has evolved into one of the most unique and wild festivals in the world. Meaning “the fires” in Valencian, the focus of the festival is creating and destroying huge cardboard, wood, papier-mâché and plaster statues that are referred to as “fallas” or “ninots”. They tend to be quite realistic looking and depict a variety of things such as poking fun at corrupt politicians and celebrities. The fallas are very labor intensive taking up to a year to prepare and can cost upwards of $60,000. The days and nights are one running party during the five days of Fallas, with explosions heard all day long and some through the night as well as plenty of processions and parades. During this time period fallas that have been worked on for months or more are placed throughout the city. The festival features an extensive variety of entertainment such as bullfights, paella contests and even beauty pageants.
Each day of Fallas kicks off at 8am with La Despertà, your wake up call that consists of brass bands marching down roads playing lively music, followed by the “fallars” throwing firecrackers in the street as they walk. Another daily event, La Mascletà, featuring coordinated firecracker and fireworks barrages takes place in each neighborhood at 2pm. The main Mascletà event takes place in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament and has pyrotechnicians competing for the honor of providing the final Mascletà of the festival on March 19th. One of the largest and most magnificent events of the festival is called the Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados (an offering of flowers to our Lady of the Forsaken). It runs on the 17th and 18th of March from 4pm until nightfall and entails a multi-colored parade with members of the Fallas wearing intricate traditional costumes and carrying bundles of flowers as the offering to their Patron Saint. From the 15th to the 18th, the old riverbed in Valencia is home to nightly fireworks displays that progressively get grander until the final night called La Nit del Foc (the night of fire).
The close of the festival occurs on the evening of March 19th, a night known as La Cremà (the burning). This is the culmination of the 5 day festival and is the reason why the many neighborhoods have children’s falla’s known as a “falla infantile”. These smaller and non-satirical themed fallas are usually a few meters away from the main ones and are burnt first at 10pm. The main fallas are burnt around midnight but can be delayed by the firefighters in charge of keeping La Cremà safe and in control. The firefighters even have to hose down façades in narrower streets to prevent the intense heat from scorching or burning the buildings. Each of the fallas is decorated with firecrackers, they are the first thing to ignite and it is usually during this time that the falla itself is also set ablaze and destroyed. Every year, one lucky falla is spared of the others’ fate thanks to the votes of the falleros and is preserved for years to come in the Fallero Museum which contains a display of all previous years’ winners. If you are looking for a loud high-spirited festival where the whole town is literally set ablaze this is the festival for you.