Las Fallas is one of the biggest festival events in Europe, but I had never heard of it before last October, when I decided to travel to Valencia for the semester. In March of every year, the residents of Valencia put their normal lives on hold for a week of fireworks, live music, bonfires, and fiestas.
Las Fallas originated from the celebrations of St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th) to welcome the coming of spring, but the festival has grown and changed significantly since its beginnings in the middle of the 18th century. The earliest celebrations begin on the 1st of March, with an event called the Mascletá, a huge fireworks display that occurs daily until the conclusion of Las Fallas on the 19th. The display, which takes place during the day, is more about the audio than the visual: during the Mascletá, a series of gunpowder explosions shake the ground for minutes at a time. The Mascletá builds up the anticipation for Fallas, and the rest of the celebrations that are to come.
When Fallas officially begins, there are “ninots,”—large wooden sculptures—on nearly every street corner and in every plaza. The ninots are carefully created throughout the year by organizations throughout Valencia. They are extremely lifelike, usually satirizing the politics and celebrities in Spain. Throughout the week, residents and visitors of Valencia make sure to visit all of the different neighborhoods in order to see all of the ninots before the end of the week. The main event of Fallas, called “La Crema” comes at midnight on March 19th, the last day of the festival. During La Crema, all but one of the expensive and time-consuming ninots are burned. The ninot that is saved, having been chosen by the vote of the people, and is placed in the Museo Fallero, which holds the winning ninots from numerous different years. There is even a separate children’s Fallas with an entirely different set of ninots that are burned at 10 PM on the last night. The name of the festival makes sense when you consider the traditional bonfires: “Fallas” means fire in Valencian, the traditional language of Valencia.
Other events throughout the week include bullfighting, paella-making contests, beauty pageants, and a Fallas Queen chosen every year. The only time bullfights occur in Valencia is during Las Fallas, despite their importance in Spanish history and culture. Traditional clothes are worn by many throughout the festivities, and Valencian music is performed all week.
Though the Mascletás have already begun, I could not be more excited for the week of Las Fallas. I am so lucky to experience such a unique traditional event like Las Fallas while abroad. As much as I can try to read up online, I really don’t know what to expect in the coming weeks!
Read more about Fallas here!