Las Fallas Festival, Spain - Famous Festivals
09-09-2018    77 times
Las Fallas Festival

Spain is well known for its thousands of festivals and carnivals that are celebrated throughout the year. Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, located in the middle of the Mediterranean coast, is enriched with its amazing architecture, a passionate sense of history and beautiful beaches. This vibrant and cosmopolitan city of Spain is also famous as the home to the European Formula One Grand Prix. However, the Fallas fiesta, which takes place in Valencia from 15th to the 19th of March every year, is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and ‘super-festivals’ in the world, which attracts thousands of visitors to the city.

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Though Las Fallas is rated as one of the craziest and biggest festivals in Spain, it is a deeply rooted ancient and traditional celebration that commemorates the feast of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Every year, It is organized to welcome the arrival of spring, which puts the city in a trance and it bursts into colour with gorgeous ‘Falles’ and finally bursts into flame when those sculptures are burned down. The term ‘Falles’ refer to both the celebration and the huge wooden structures burnt during the celebration.

Las Fallas Festival
The towering Fallas, created by artist Monolo Garcia
The towering Fallas, created by artist Monolo Garcia

During the Middle Ages, the carpenters used to hang up planks of wood called ‘parots’ to shade their candles in the dark winter days, so that they may keep on burning in their workshops. At the advent of spring those pieces of wood were burned as a way of celebrating the end of the dark and wintry working days. Gradually, with the passing of time, the carpenters began to decorate those ‘parots’ and over the years, they got more extravagant, enthusiastic and competitive. They started fashioning whimsical sculptures from their scraps, sometimes fashioning a political comment or a comical tableau. Today, they are conceptualised and organized under the local committees, the ‘casal fallers’, who raise the necessary fund for constructing the ‘ninots’. There is even an area in the city called the ‘Ciutat Fallera’ where groups of workers and designers spend months together creating all the incredible towering tableaux. Local puppets or dolls, known as ‘ninots’, are placed strategically at the key points throughout the city, which are often cruel caricatures of well-known Spanish and international celebrities. Perestroika imposed politicians’ faces on to Russian nesting dolls, Disney villains, erotic kissing, grotesque butterflies, Obama, Da Vinci and muscled Vikings – anything goes when you are at Las Fallas.

Las Fallas Festival
Las Fallas Festival

Every year, falleras (female) and falleros (male) are elected from every corner of the ‘Comunitat’ or the State of Valencia and they arrive at the city to serve as ambassadors for the fiesta. In fact, during the days of the festivity, the whole city become vibrant and colourful with the procession of men, women and children in meticulously recreated 18th century costumes. While the men are dressed in smocks, a cloak-like outer garment and breeches with a handkerchief tied around their necks, the women steal the show with their voluminous and intricately embroidered gowns of silk, lace or chiffon, decorated with lacy mantillas, their hair braided neatly into discs at the sides of their heads and hoops in their ears.

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Cheered by the excited and enthusiastic onlookers and led by a band, they wend merrily along the streets to the Plaza de la Virgen to offer bouquets to the 45 feet high giant wooden image of Our Lady of the Forsaken, a Catholic apparition attributed to the Virgin Mary.

Las Fallas Festival
Procession of the costumed Falleras with bouquets
Procession of the costumed Falleras with bouquets
Image of Our Lady of the Forsaken
Image of Our Lady of the Forsaken

On each night, during the festival, thundering sounds of firecrackers rip through the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in a noisy event called ‘la Mascleta’. This popular event, involving competition among the neighbouring groups for the most impressive volley, ends with the ‘terremoto’, meaning ‘earthquake’, as hundreds of masclets explode simultaneously. Each night the ear-splitting sound escalates in degree with the increase of the display of the fireworks, which finally culminates on the 18th of March, on ‘La Nit de Foc’, the Night of Fire.

Plaza del Ayuntamiento by night
Plaza del Ayuntamiento by night

The night following ‘La Nit de Foc’, is called ‘la Cremà’, when all the fallas are burnt. The neighbouring communities are to burn their ‘falla infantiles’, meant for the children, at about 10pm. After that, at around midnight, the adult ‘fallas’ are ignited. The preparations for the final and the most imposing fire do not start before 1 am at the earliest, while thousands of people wait eagerly to observe the surreal show. Finally, as the Falles are fully stuffed with fireworks, the street lights are switched off and the firemen put the tall towering models in fire. The blazing fire consumes the wooden structures with blinding passion and the structures, which took months of painstaking labour for construction, become ashes before the eyes of the roaring spectators. During the fire, Valencia becomes a city of flames, like Nero’s Rome.

Las Fallas Festival
la Crema
la Crema

Each year, one selected ‘ninot’ is spared the ordeal, while the rest suffer a spectacular burning fate.

Tutorial at home
Tutorial at home

During the crazy Las Fallas fiesta, the city of Valencia becomes one enormous crazy street party, with various costumed parades, pageants, beauty shows, and gigantic Fallas all over the city. In fact, the five days and nights during the festival are marked only for merry making and continuous partying by the people of all ages in city.

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Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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