There will be fireworks galore in Valencia come March 15th as the festival known as ‘The Fallas’ takes place. Roughly translating into English as ‘The Fires’, The Fallas is filled with gunpowder, lights, music, traditional costumes and giant colourful papier-mâché figures.
Held every year from March 15th to 19th, the festival celebrates the final days of winter and the arrival of spring with an array of activities that are spread across four days filled with flames, fireworks and fallas (torches).
A festival that stems back to the Middle Ages
Falling during the feast of Saint Joseph (the day of the father in Spain), the festival is one of Europe’s wildest street parties and is said to stem back to the Middle Ages when local artisans would dispose of the broken artifacts they had collected up all winter, by burning them to celebrate the Spring Equinox. Over time, the traditions of The Fallas began to evolve and these artifacts became lifelike figures known as ‘ninots’ (Valencian for puppets or dolls).
Figures filled with fireworks
Crafted from papier-mâché, today, these figures take centre-stage at the celebrations. Every year, each neighbourhood in the city has an organised group of people called the Casal faller who work all year long holding fundraising parties to fund the construction of these figures.
During the four days leading up to 19th March, each group will parade their ninot on the city’s streets before mounting it on an elaborate firecracker-filled cardboard and papier-mâché monument where it becomes known as a falles.
Taking a satirical swipe
Each year, the falles are constructed according to an agreed theme. This is traditionally a satirical swipe at anyone who has drawn particular attention. Although The Fallas is largely a traditional festival, in previous years falles have included modern characters such as Shrek, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Lady Gaga.
Five days of fireworks, festivities and firecrackers
Full of festivities, the five days and nights of The Fallas are one continuous party with historical, religious and comedy events all taking place throughout the city.
During these festivities, explosions can be heard from dusk to dawn as everyone from small children to the elderly throw fireworks and firecrackers in the streets.
Every day at 2pm, the sound of firecrackers can be heard ripping through the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in a noisy event called la Macleta. A concert of gunpowder, this event sees each neighbourhood competing with one another and ends with the terremoto – or earthquake in English.
A finale filled with fireworks and flames
On the final night, The Falles features a finale that is filled with fireworks and flames. As the clock strikes midnight, the brightly coloured effigies of the falles are laden with fireworks, burnt and transformed into gigantic torches.
Away from the falles, the city resembles an open-air dance party as people fill the streets, though in the place of music there is the sound of fireworks being thrown around randomly.