Travelling to Spain? Here's why you should check out Fallas de Valencia
Miquel Corbi Albella talks to Avril-Ann Braganza about the festival held in honour of Saint Joseph
Every March, Valencia gears up to celebrate Fallas de Valencia. Celebrated from 15th to 19th March, fallas refers to the celebration as well as to the sculpture. Held in honour of Saint Joseph, Mother Mary's husband and the patron saint of carpenters, carpenters would extend their working hours during winter by using light from a stand, which was called a 'parot'. They would burn these parots in Spring to celebrate the long days ahead. Later, they began making sculptures with the leftover wood and thus the ninot (doll-like effigy) was born. Soon, it became a popular tradition. Originally made from wood and cardboard, they use foam and plastic as well, today. Each falla has it's own theme, which changes every year.
While the fallas is the most important part of the festival, that's not all you will experience. Everyday, the mascletá is held; a large amount of gunpowder and firecrackers are burnt together to create a whole lot of noise. Later, gear yourself for the 'Nit del Foc' (Night of Fire), a night of light, colour and explosions held near The Alameda within the old Turia river park (a drained river, which is now a huge park that crosses the city). On two consecutive days a host of flowers, referred to as the ofrenda, are also offered to Our Lady of the Forsaken. Falleras and falleros from different parts of the city wearing traditional costumes, dance in procession to the music of their neighbourhood bands to the Plaza de la Virgen outside Valencia Cathedral, to offer bouquets to the Virgin. La Fallera Mayor (fallas queen) is also elected. Contestants first have to be the Fallera Mayor of their own association and are then selected as the Fallera Mayor of the entire city.
On la crema or the final night (19th March) all the fallas, except the ninot indultat, are burnt. The children’s fallas, which are smaller and have themes for kids are set alight at 10 pm, with the exception of the first prize in the children’s category, which is burnt at 10 30 pm. The city council children’s falla is lit at 11pm.
There is at least one falla per neighbourhood and they are burnt in the streets, in the place where they were for the four days of the festival. The best figure or ninot indultat is kept in the museum. The entire city is filled with flaming fallas. At midnight, following a grand fireworks display, the large fallas are lit. At 12 30 am, the first prize falla is burnt and at 1 am, the falla in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento is set alight, symbolising the end of the festival.
And if you're hungry, indulge in some churros or buñuelos with chocolate; you'll find it in almost all the street stalls in Valencia.