Fallas – a pyromaniac celebration!
On March 19th more than 700 big and small "Fallas" are burned in the city of Valencia. This night of the “cremà” is when the Falla statues (locally known as ninots) are torched throughout the city and villages in the region. It always occurs on March 19th, celebrating the the San José Fiesta. This night everything also begins because with the last ashes of the fires, the dreaming and planning for the new Fallas of the next year starts the cycle again. Maybe it’s a festival of reincarnation?
This eastern Region of Spain celebrates the end of winter and the coming of spring with their annual Fallas. It is a very fascinating and fun combination …..of art, satire, and politics…. of the Valenciano people and it’s independent language…..of bright lights, colors, smells and sounds …..and of course, the massive fires and fireworks. These incredible fires occur for 5 days throughout the city streets and squares of this province well known for it’s oranges and paellas.
The Fallas Festival is derived from a centuries old tradition of the Valencia carpenters, who before the Spring Festival of their patron Saint Joseph, burned their leftover carpentry materials and shavings from the winter and previous year. Piles of any burnable material were lighted in front of their shops, and later on the streets and in public squares.
Around 1870, the Fallas celebration was forbidden, as well as the Carnival (the same Carnival celebrated in Cadiz, the Canaries and Rio de Janero.) among fears of what masked partygoers might be doing. But, in 1885 local rebellion created a movement that defended typical traditions by awarding prizes for the best Fallas Monuments in the magazine "La Traca". This competition, which became increasingly popular among different neighborhoods, spurred on creation of the more artistic and critical Fallas found today. In 1901 the Valencia Town Hall started awarding local prizes to the best Fallas. This was the beginning of the union between the Valenciano people and their political power. In 1929 the first poster contest for the promotion of the festivities started and subsequently in 1932 the Fallero weekend was established to become the major Fiesta of the Region of Valencia today.
The Fallas have long since evolved into a fiesta with a much more critical and ironic sense by displaying outrageous social scenes and creating political satires written in the local language. I recall an image from the first (and last!) Fallas I went to in Denia 30 years ago…a boy deficating on a television set….such is but one of hundreds of statements made by the Valenciano’s over the years. For five days, fireworks, mascletas (huge overhead boomers) and monumental statues are the statements of different cities, where the smell of gunpowder blends with the finest flower scents, sounds of music of the local bands and the mascletas.
Today, hundreds of very ornate and beautiful statues known a ninots (or figures) are made from wood, paper mache and fireworks are created throughout the year….to be burned. Except for one! Since 1934, one most popular Falla is spared the match and placed in the local Falla museum.
And when you go the mascletas, remember to keep your mouth open….or you can rupture your eardrums!!
Some clicks for more info:
Fallas 2007 - The Triumph of Fire
The Fiestas of Spain : Las Fallas , Valencia
LAS FALLAS IN CYBERSPAIN
2007 Official Fallas Programme - Valencia Fallas 2007 - Valencia
I’ll hopefully post some pictures in March when I go to Valencia.
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