The biggest Fiesta of the Valencian Community is Las Fallas.
What started as a feast day in honour of St Joseph, has evolved into a 5-day long celebration of all things pyrotechnical!
Las Fallas literally means “The Fires” in Valencian. The central focus of the fiesta is the creation and subsequent burning of thousands of . These are made from wood, papier-maché and plaster, and range from less than life-sized, to huge constructions several stories tall, and costing hundreds of thousands of Euros. If you wander around the streets of Valencia, you will see literally hundreds of groups of ninots, as each small neighbourhood of the City has its own , responsible for organising its own display and events.
The main events of Las Fallas are:
La Desperta – The “wake-up call”. Each day from 8.00am, brass bands appear from the Casals and march along the streets, playing lively music. Following them are the Falleros, throwing firecrackers as they go.
La Mascletà – A daytime fireworks display, were the aim is to make as much noise as possible. Normally held from 2pm in each neighbourhood, the biggest event is in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament where the pyrotechnicians compete for the honour of providing the final Mascletà of the fiesta, on March 18th. The Mascletà is hugely popular with the Valencian people, and found almost nowhere else in the world.
La Planta – The “planting”. By the end of the 15th March, the construction of all of the Falles has to be completed – otherwise they face disqualification from the competition.
L’Ofrenda – From 1530 until well past midnight on the 17th and 18th March, there is a steady stream of Falleros parading with baskets and bouquets of flowers, to the Plaça de la Verge, where there is a statue of the Virgin, atop a large wooden pyramid. The flowers are taken from the Falleros and used to turn the pyramid into the dress of the Virgin. Each year, the dress has a different design. The Falleros take two routes – one via the Calle de la Paz, and one via the Calle San Vicente.
Els Castells and the Nit de Foc – On the 15th -18th March, there are Firework displays in the Turia Gardens, in the old riverbed near the , with each night’s display becoming progressively bigger. The final display on 18th March is called the , and typically uses over 4 tonnes of Fireworks! The displays start from Midnight on 15th March, and get progressively later – the Nit de Foc starts at 1.30am!
La Crema – The Burning. On the final night of the Fiesta, the Falles are burnt as huge bonfires. Many neighbourhoods have a , and these are burnt at around 10pm. The main neighbourhood Falles are burnt closer to midnight, while ones in the City Centre often start later. Traditionally the Falla in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament is burnt last.
Each falla is laden with fireworks which are lit first – normally these ignite the falla itself. The falles burn quite quickly, and in the narrower streets the firemen have to douse the façades, window blinds, street signs etc., with their hoses, to stop them from melting, from the beginning of the Crema, until it cools down after several minutes. It’s not unusual to see the Falleras watching the spectacle in tears, as the ninots are burnt to the ground – but within a few days, work will start on the design of next year’s display!