If you happen to be near Valencia in March, don't miss the fantastic Las Fallas festival! Or why not travel here just for this long, colourful celebration? Las Fallas is a multi-day celebration that includes everything from huge statues to flower parades and 'fireworks'.
The folk festival Las Fallas
The Las Fallas festival usually runs from 15-19 March, but this year it started on 1 March. And the preparations have probably been going on for most of the year! The town yesterday was full of people in a festive mood. The streets were full of stalls serving beer and all kinds of food, the children were running around with firecrackers and outside every little bar and restaurant young and old were crowded.
We were so lucky to have local guides! We had the opportunity to meet our blogger friends behind the exciting blog. Svensson against the current, which is about both Spain and design. Eva and Peter live in Valencia and are dedicated Las Fallas participants. We really couldn't have better guides! And besides, we had a very nice day and evening together!
Festival with a long history
Las Fallas has a long history and, if we understand correctly, it was originally a celebration of spring and the vernal equinox. Later, the celebration became associated with the saint of carpenters, Saint José. In the Middle Ages, during the dark season, carpenters had to work by the light of oil lamps hanging from wooden figures.
When the light season arrived, the carpenters made a ceremony of burning the wooden figures. Over time, the figures became more and more human, eventually resulting in huge and amazing sculptures, 'phalluses', which are still burned at the end of the festival!
Mascleta - daily 'firecracker' displays
Every day at 14:00, from 1 March to 19 March, it is mascleta in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in Valencia. Together with lots of people, we crowded the square to experience the 'fireworks' which were an escalating sound experience, more than a sight experience. As the sound rose to a crescendo and the ground vibrated, dense fog filled the air.
Today's phallus - huge statues throughout the city
The main thing that people associate with the Las Fallas festival is the huge and amazing statues that are erected all over the city. The statues are erected during 15 March and by dusk on 16 March they are all completed. Each statue has some sort of theme, often featuring celebrities or politicians in various satirical or humorous situations. The statues are built from Styrofoam on top of wooden frames and are festively burned at the end of the festival.
In total, there are about 500 statues from as many different local associations, which then compete against each other in different prize categories. Each association also enters two statues - an 'adult' and a 'child' statue. The most expensive statue has a budget of EUR 230 000, so it's a lot of money!
Another part of Las Fallas is the flower parade, so people all regional associations participate with members in traditional dress, standard bearers and their own music band. The flowers are carried to the Plaza de la Virgen, where the saint Our Lady of the Forsaken is dressed with all the flowers. You can see even more pictures in our post on flower parade in Valencia.
Las fallas by night
The festivities of Las Fallas in Valencia don't end just because it's evening and night. Quite the contrary! People are everywhere and the small stalls in the streets serve everything from beer, fruit drinks and mojitos to candy bars, churros and anything that can be deep-fried. The huge statues are lit up and look even more impressive, if possible.
You can also experience impressive "light shows" and fireworks. Two different light shows were competing against each other when we checked. In both cases, there were huge stands set up, and when it was time, the streets were crowded, crowded with people wanting to see the light show, which was accompanied by music.
At midnight, it's time for the fireworks, and no expense is spared. The biggest fireworks show is the one called "Nit del Foc" (Night of Fire), which is organised on the last evening. We loaded up with sangria and grilled hamburgers at our friends Eva and Peter's house. Perfect warm-up! Eva and Peter had a Swedish friend visiting and had also invited a couple of Russian friends over, and it was a very nice evening.
At 01:30 at night, crowds of people gathered at the Paseo de la Alameda to watch the final and most powerful fireworks display of Las Fallas. Over 2.5 tonnes of gunpowder were used and the fireworks lasted for 20 minutes. And yes, it was probably the most powerful fireworks we've seen. But don't think the festival is over because of that! After this, it's time for the fire parade and the burning of statues...
Burning end to Las Fallas
After several days of festival, it's time for the 'Cabalgata del Fuego' (parade of fire) and 'La Crema', the burning of all those marvellous statues. This means that 500 statues, sometimes 20-25 metres high and made of wood and styrofoam, are burned in narrow alleys in the middle of the city while all the people in the city crowd around to watch. This would hardly have been allowed in Sweden ...