The Fallas of Valencia – the triumph of fire
For a truly amazing spectacle it´s hard to beat Valencia on 19th March each year, when, after a week of colourful pageantry and noisy celebrations that transform the city, some 700 papier-maché figures are set alight !
A tradition started by ancient Mediterranean pagan cultures to welcome in the spring solstice, the ritual was “adopted” by the Catholic Church in general as a tribute to St Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and by the city of Valencia in particular as homage to their patron saint, Our Lady of the Forsaken.
Called “fallas”, the figures are huge works of art, mounted on wooden frames, created through a combination of artistic skill, imagination and wit to represent good-humoured, irreverent or sarcastic caricatures of daily life and famous people. No-one is safe from the satire!
The “fallas” fill the city streets and squares. The festivities begin on 12th March and go on for the whole week – a week of extravagant colour and stunning costumes, parades and flowers, music (with over 300 marching bands playing at events each day from dawn until well into the night), light shows, dancing and fireworks. The monuments and figures are brought into the streets on March 15th , with the largest taking their position in the main square (Plaza del Ayuntamiento) – from which point onwards very little sleep is had!
Gunpowder and fireworks are the stars of the show on 18th March, called the Night of Fire (Nit de Foc), when there are literally explosions of colour.
The climax of the festivities is the “crema” on 19th March – the burning of all the figures in homage to the arrival of springtime. This starts at 10.00 pm when the childrens´ figures are set alight, with music and fireworks. Then, at midnight, comes the astonishing sight and noise of the huge figures and structures being torched – the red flames are reflected in the eyes of the onlookers and the noise of the crackling wood and showering sparks fills the air as the city is enveloped in reddish-grey smoke while a whole year´s worth of work and dedication burns to ashes!
The Fallas is truly a festival for all the senses.
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