The Fallas

We have attended many Fallas’ so it is time to explain what the Fallas is about.

The Falles (in Valencian) or Fallas (Spanish) is a celebration originally in praise of Joseph, the husband of Mary, but that was back in the middle of the 19th century.  It has grown into quite the bash, attracting hordes of tourists each year.  It is an annual event, always from March 1 through March 19.  Fallas centers around ‘casals’ which are neighborhood organizations, numbering close to 1000 in the city. These organizations produce the sculptures such as the one below.  Each year the Falles are burned and they do new ones each year.

 

fallas1

 

fallas3

 

Falla under construction in Rusafa, 2016

Falla under construction in Rusafa, 2016

 

other than the one at city hall (Ayuntamiento), for which the city pays. These sculptures are up to 25 meters in height and these days are made mostly from foam over wood frames, although some are still made with wood slats. They have multiple characters or elements to them, not just a single statue. They often express satirical themes, frequently annotated in Valenciano.

There are street celebrations galore, with mascletas (huge fireworks more noise and rumble than visual) each day at 2 pm attended by tens of thousands at the Ayuntamiento. There are also night fireworks (see video below), which are mighty impressive displays. The casals erect large tents and party away, cooking paealla on the street over wood fires. Some 800000 visitors, many coming during the peak between March 12 and 19, stream through the neighborhoods to see the fallas’ and the huge, glamorous sound and light show in the Rusafa neighborhood.

Crews of artists and craftsmen take several months to create the fallas.  They use paper, wax, wood, Styrofoam and other materials.  The satirized figures are outrageously presented, often in positions that seem to defy the law of gravity.

Falles refers to both the festival and the sculptures made for the celebration.  While much of the to do is about these and the fireworks, there is also the selection of a Queen of Fallas, called the Fallera Mayor, and the Fallera Infantil (a teenager), as well as lots of partying in a very family friendly atmosphere, with street food galore, notably buñelos, a deep fried item made from pumpkins.

Each neighborhood has a Casal faller, a group that raises funds, often lunches featuring paella. Each make a falla (sculpture) which is burned at the end of the festival.  The fallas and ninots (smaller statues) bear themes developed individually by the casal fallers each year, often satirizing various public figures, both Spanish and otherwise.

Marching musicians play traditional instruments.  One is called a dolcaina, which is a small horn with a medieval sound to it.  It is in the oboe family.  They also play a drum called a tabalet.  Most of the fallers have their own band.

There are processions too, both historical and religious.  The main procession involves thousands of falleras attired in their complex and expensive gowns (especially the ones made of silk) and often accompanied by a man or children also traditionally attired.

Our friend Nuria in her fallera dress

Our friend Nuria in her fallera dress

Bands are interspersed. The women bear flowers which are placed on a huge- 25 meters in height- statue of Mary carrying Jesus and two children are at her knees, representing the children killed by Herod and the forsaken in general.  She is called La Virgen de los Desemperados (the disempowered).  Each year they put up a new design.

virgin

The streets are littered with the debris of firecrackers called bangers because they have no fuse but explode upon contact with the ground.  Each day starts very early with bands activating the Desperta, the wake up call at 5 am.  Since no one has slept much, why would they want to do this?  Well, they do.

The last night, March 19, is called in Valeniano La Nit del Foc, the night of fire.  Some 800 fires are lit, consuming the fabulous fallas–  the city is alight during the ‘crema.’  The next morning it’s as if nothing had happened on the streets of Valencia for the past three weeks.

fallas burn

 

Fallas is one of the wonders of the world!  Do come for a visit!

About Gary Kirkpatrick

Artist
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