A traditional Valencian holiday: Las Fallas

Hola a tod@s! Qué tal estais? 

Between the 15th and the 19th of March, Valencia celebrated the blossoming of spring through las fallas, a very traditional festival in honour of the various neighbourhoods of the city. 

In fact, las fallas are just different neighbourhoods of the city, little informal communities of people who get together and work all year to improve their area, promote certain activities and most importantly, to built the best ninot!

The origins of this celebration are unknown however, it is believed that it originates from the carpenters that used to burn scraps of materials on the day of their protector, Saint Joseph.

In fact, las fallas revolves around the burning of the ninots, big wooden structures that represent, sometimes ironically, certain realities of the current times.Throughout the festival, the various ninots, and hence their fallas, compete. Indeed, the most exquisite ninot will be spared from the March 19th flames. Citizens can vote for the candidates they choose, and the winner is determined by the number of votes received.

People are able to vote their favorite Ninot. This is the one I vote which I found very touching! It is called “The journey of life” and illustrates two older poeple who look at pictures of when they were young.

During the week of celebrations, I was able to walk around the city whose streets were adorned by Valencian flags and ninots and shaken by the explosion of petards. Spaniards, or at least Valencianos (inhabitants of Valencia) love the clamour of fireworks and so they have many castillos de fuego, mascletás and petardos all around the city before and during the festival. 

Because of my Erasmus here in Valencia, I was able to grasp that the three are distinct, and so I will describe to you the differences between the three forms of fireworks:

Castillos de fuego: they correspond to the beautiful and scenic fireworks that we usually enjoy during new year’s eve; 

Mascletá: It is a very characteristic Valencian form of firework. There is not particularly visual; rather, it is simply sound, a clamour that shakes the floor and windows!

Petardos: little fireworks that are usually exploded by citizens, they cause a loud bang.

This is a video from the celebrations of this year.

Mascletá is without a doubt the greatest of them all! It lasts 5 minutes and takes place every day at 2 p.m. at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in the city center. It is a really loud firework that can be heard across the city. I really liked it because everyone gathers in the plaza (the square) and the fireworks  are so loud that you could feel them in your chest, which is a fantastic experience. The finest part is undoubtedly the finale, because as the fireworks ends, the clamor grows louder and louder, and everyone begins to jump and cheer; something that I found very emotional as you can sense everyone’s enthusiasm and love for this event.

This is the group of falleras in line to the ofrenda, just behind the Plaza de la Virgen.

During Las Fallas, the falleros and falleras, or those who participate in the fallas, dress up in traditional attire. Women, in particular, dress up in beautiful outfits that are custom-made for the event.

This is the statue of la Virgen de los Desamparados. Every year, the decoration of her cloak changes. In 2022, it included a red phenix which indicated the rebirth after the pandemic.

The event was also influenced by Catholic culture, which has originated la ofrenda. Falleros and falleras travel from all over the city to visit la Virgen de los Desamparados, the Virgin Mary of the Helpless, in Plaza de la Virgen in the city center. There, the valencianos offer flowers to the massive statue in order to seek protection for their loved ones. Valencianos are often moved during this procession since it is important for them to beg for protection for those they care about the most. The flowers are subsequently disposed away, and the end product is a marvellous flower statue.

I am extremely thankful to have done my Erasmus in Valencia because it has enabled me to sense the growing excitement of Valencianos as Las Fallas neared. It has been amazing to see how the ninots were slowly built up, perceive the overall excitement and happiness of the inhabitants and the pride and passions of the falleros. It is something that is very difficult to capture in writing nonetheless, it is something that I will never forget. 

¿Qué opinais sobre este celebración?

What do you think about this celebration?

Let me know in the comments! 🙂

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