The Las Fallas festival in Valencia, on the Costa Blanca of Spain, was one of our most memorable Spanish festivals! I had heard about this city-wide celebration, the grandest of Valencia events, with its towering sculptures that were burned on the last night, but I was in no way prepared for the Fallas pageantry and processions, the afternoon mascleta and brilliant La Nit del Foc fireworks at 2:00am.
Ninots and Las Fallas History
The Las Fallas festival is a five-day celebration leading up to Saint Joseph’s Day each March 19. Las Fallas history goes back 500 years to medieval times, when I was told the carpenters, needing light in the dark winter evenings, would use a candle perched on a stand, like a candelabrum with arms of wood. When the light of spring came and the structure was no longer needed, it would be burned to honor Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Scraps of old wood and garments were added, and the shapes, or ninots, took on a doll-like appearance. Somewhere along the years, these ninots turned into the fallas, artistic sculptures over five-stories high, commissioned by neighbors to be built by Valencia’s master craftsmen.
Unexpected Fallas Experience
What made this the most unforgettable of Spanish festivals was the unexpected insider experience we were given. We were fortunate to have friends from the States traveling to Spain especially for Las Fallas. Fortunate because Vince grew up in Valencia and had friends and family there to share this local experience with us.After a bull fight at plaza toros and a three-hour traditional Spanish dinner, Vince took us to one of the brightest streets in the city, Sueca. Here, underneath a spectacular falla, he introduced us to his cousin Juanjo Garcia, one of the Fallas Mayores, or master artists. Not only did Juanjo design and build the fallas we were under, we discovered that he was responsible for nine of the over 800 across Valencia. Someone is our party of foreigners asked Juanjo how he felt about his art being burned later that evening. He compared it to a chef preparing a great meal; it was meant to be eaten. His fallas were meant to be burned. We gazed on in silent awe.
In the midst of our conversation, barriers were set up around the fallas by firemen. The crowds of onlookers were behind them, supposedly to protect them from the burning ninots and intense heat. We, on the other hand, as invited guests, were right under the fallas with front row positions for La Crema, the burning.
The Fallas, Exploding NinotsThe fallera, or young girl representing the neighborhood, lit the fuse and the fireworks packed inside the wood and paper-mache ninots started exploding. Following the lead of the locals, I found a scrap of cardboard on the street to shelter my face from the heat. Huge chunks of the fallas came billowing down, faces on the ninots melted, smoke and fire filled the air on the narrow street.
While I found it interesting to know the Las Fallas history, present day Valencianos consider the Las Fallas festival a big spring street party to celebrate community and their own unique hertitage. And that it is, the most memorable of Spanish festivals and Valencia events, a celebration full of unique traditions and memorable experiences. Go. Experience it yourself! Book your hotel early!
Experience more of the ninots and Las Fallas festival through these travel pictures.