Experience the Fiery Festival of Las Fallas in Valencia
If ever proof was needed that Spanish festivals are the craziest and biggest, Las Fallas in Valencia is it. The concept of setting the city alight for a four-day celebration seems insane, but the result is an amazing visual spectacle. Guy Fawkes has nothing on these Spaniards!
The festival of Las Fallas, which means ‘fire torch’ in Spanish, dates back to the 18th century and pays tribute to St Joseph – the patron saint of carpenters.
‘Fallas’ is the name given to the massive papier Mache and wooden sculptures built by artists, and sponsored by each neighbourhood. Up to 20m high, the Fallas are not only works of art, but more importantly they are ironic, humorous representations of Spanish life, politics and celebrities.
FUEL UP FOR THE FIESTA
We wander around Valencia’s old town, gawping at more than 700 Fallas being made ready, before moving on Valencian paella, washed down with a jug of agua de Valencia (‘Valencian water’, but really sangria made with Cava instead of red wine). Dessert is churros – sugared doughnut strips dipped in chocolate.
In the evening it’s party time as the streets come alive with fireworks, music and carousing.
During the festival, fireworks can be seen, heard and even felt underfoot, while the smell of gunpowder lingers throughout the city.
Don’t miss the mascleta – a huge explosion of firecrackers set off at 2pm everyday at the city hall – it’s deafening but unforgettable. The Nit del Foc (Night of Fire) happens every evening, and with each performance the fireworks displays get more impressive.
We buy some beer to enjoy while we gaze in awe at a never-ending array of exploding colour. Even the odd wayward firecracker tossed at our feet by enthusiastic Valencians can’t wipe the smiles off our faces.
Las Fallas is a traditional celebration, which means we get a chance to experience the culture of Valencia, such as the offering of the flowers, Ofrenda de las Flores. Locals don traditional costumes and parade to Plaza de Le Virgin, showering the statue of the Virgin Mary with bouquets of red and white carnations.
BURN IT DOWN
On the last day of the festival when the clock strikes midnight, the most dramatic part of the celebration unfolds.
La Crema is the burning of the Fallas, which have been stuffed with fireworks and go up in flames with a snap, crackle and pop. Luckily for us, the Fallas aren’t all set alight at the same time, so we’re able to grab front row seats to watch our favourite Fallas burn.
It may seem like a health and safety nightmare as we dodge burning paper and plaster, but the excitement adds to the buzz of the night as the burning figures begin to melt and topple. Te heat is intense, but we’re carried along by the emotion of the locals who watch as their wonderful Fallas are destroyed.
There’s a no sleeping on the last night of Las Fallas. As the embers die down, the party and the fireworks kick on into the small hours. The Spanish have put on another spectacular fiesta.