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Valencias Las Fallas: Firecrackers, Folklore and Fiesta

Now officially part of UNESCOs Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Valencias Las Fallas: Firecrackers, Folklore and Fiesta


By Suzanne Geudeke

The spectacular fireworks that light up the sky reflect the character of the Mediterranean city: loud,
colourful and not afraid to show of. Thats Valencia.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain situated 350 kilometers down the coast from Barcelona.
Valencia might be smaller and less well known than its siblings Madrid and Barcelona, but it has many
faces.

Charming Valencia, Tropical Valencia, Historical Valencia, take your pick. Do you want to get to know
Festival Valencia? Then you should not miss its main attraction and without doubt one of the biggest
festivities in Europe. Every year, from the 1st until the 19th of March the city climaxes into an explosion
of sound, emotion and colour: Las Fallas.

The Origins

Las Fallas is said to have its origins in the eighteenth century, when carpenters burned the leftovers of
a hard winters work in honor of their patron, Saint Josef. Over the years, the piles of leftovers
transformed into huge statues of wood and paper, known as la falla, humorously criticizing society.

Today, the actual statues are made by hired artists who put in a years work to build the most
expensive, spectacular falla. For three days, from March 16th-19th, the fallas decorate every street
corner and square, some as high as a six-floor building.

Discovering the Fallas

It is a real pleasure to go on an early morning walk, well before the crowds hit the streets, marveling at
the enormous works of art, appreciating the sharp and often blunt sense of humor.
It amazes me as I look up to the giant Dali who has turned the town hall square into his workspace. He
is painting the portrait of an equally giant lady and both are surrounded by famous Spanish paintings.

There is something new to explore at every street corner.

La Masclet

Even though I could wander around the city for hours, I do not want to miss the masclet; the most
bizarre and impressive fireworks display in Spain. Every day the trains and spit out a river of people
who flood the streets around the town hall square.
You need to arrive early to get a good spot, meaning that you position yourself in such a way that your
body soaks in the maximum amount of decibels, resonating off the buildings. I am standing shoulder to
shoulder with Valencians and tourists, waiting for the queen of the festivities, the fallera mayor, to give
the signal.
Seor pyrotechnic, you can start the masclet! the fallera mayor finally announces from the balcony
of the town hall. As her voice dies out, the first explosion resonates between the buildings. There is a
short moment of silence and then the pyrotechnic orchestrates a 15-minute ear deafening concert of
120 decibel explosions that shake the ground.

I feel like covering my ears, but people around me gesture that I should open my mouth; it takes the
pressure off the eardrums. Here I am, my mouth wide open, the explosions determining my heartbeat.
The smell of gunpowder penetrates the air; small pieces of ash land in my hair; babies start to cry; the
explosions build up to an overwhelming ending. All I can do is cheer as the final explosions resonate
between the buildings.

Falleras in traditional costume


I am full of new impressions, but ready for more. I soon learn that Las Fallas is about more than just
loud and overwhelming fireworks. Fallas is about the spectacular display of lights in la Calle Sueca,
about gigantic paellas (a rice dish), about young and old getting together, parading through the streets,
tradition, drinking

La Ofrenda
The whole city seems to have gathered. It is worth seeing the thousands of people dressed in their
spectacular traditional outfits offer flowers to la Virgen de los Desamparados (our Lady of the Helpless),
the patron saint of Valencia. The procession slowly makes its way through the old part of city, women in
their heavy dresses, and their arms full of red and white flowers.

It can take hours for the parade to reach the square in front of the Basilique; where by the end of the
day as much as three tons of flowers are accumulated, forming an impressive replica of the virgin.
Many women are not able to control their emotions when finally reaching their patron Saint

For a couple of days, you can marvel at the impressive flower statue. You can pay her a visit after a
night of dancing at one of the many street parties, stealing a

The end
One last night of partying and then it is over. The moment has come for la crem, the ritual burning of
all the fallas. It is the firemens busiest night of the year; they move from falla to falla to spray the
buildings around them and sometimes the people closest to the flames.

I have come to see the sacrifice of my favourite falla; two giraffes that are clearly madly in love with
each other. The flames lick at their ears and dance around their feet. I know that once the giraffes are
gone, the party is over. The falleras, queens of the festivities, cry as the 500.000 euro falla gets
devoured by the flames. Smoke covers the city

The next morning, not even a firecracker can be heard. Only a persistent hangover and a feeling of
excitement remain of days filled with fireworks, folklore and fiesta

In the meantime, Valencia is already busy preparing itself for next years Fallas. It is worth a visit. Make
sure you do not miss it!

Suzanne Geudeke is a freelance writer, mostly writing travel articles. She is based in Valencia.
Read more about Spain http://www.gonomad.com/

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