Guest blogger Ryan Bennett from HostelBookers’ contracting team has just got back from the loud, proud and crazy Las Fallas Festival in Valencia. He reports from the front line about what there is to see…
I’ve heard about this epic fire festival for years and I’m wrapped to have finally seen it. Las Fallas runs for a few weeks in March, but the last few days are the main event and not to be missed.
According to the roughly 300-year-old tradition, the festivities begin on the first Sunday of March at 5am. Brass bands parade through the streets with a wake up call (La Desperta), and continue every day until the final burning.
This year the main event ran between 15-19 March, with the final night including ‘La Crema’ – the burning of all the ninots (Valencian for puppets).
We got a cheap flight into Valencia on the main day (Saturday morning) ready to party the weekend away.
The night of the burning is what I really wanted to see, but there is so much more on offer.
Things to see
As the festival centres around tradition, expect to see beautiful Valencians parading in costume, floral offerings from the ‘city virgins’, fire processions, children running amok with firecrackers and delicious churros and chocolate on every corner.
There are little children’s ninots everywhere and the corresponding giant falla (big figures) are protected by barricades.
The falla at Plaza Na Jordana is always spectacular – they’ve won the major artistic merit prize for creativity and originality a dozen times. This year did not disappoint – a giant skeleton/reaper with sheath sitting on a tomb. The theme was hell and it was designed to burn slow.
The main falla I saw was a majorly quick burn – the heat that came off it was searing.
If you’re going to view it first hand you may as well get in early and take front centre. As you can see, these giant paper mache figures are stuffed with fireworks, blown up and burned. There is so much art, love, life and light everywhere.
Check out my awesome vid
Being in the front row we were warned to get back, but the crowd was huge and we had nowhere to go. Luckily for the more dangerous burns they have a fire truck nearby to douse the flames quickly should it get out of hand.
The cost and prize
Some of these giants, depicting comical figures, take almost a year to complete only to be sacrificed in a blazing inferno. Competition is fierce for the winning figure – and expensive.
Neighbourhoods can spend over €200,000 on their 20m, spectacular creations and use many a great artist to design these feted monuments.
The City Council does give grants, as the festival attracts huge crowds and is great for business. However, raising
the rest of the money is usually from sponsors and donations.
While there is a monetary prize, it is definitely not what drives the festival which is awash with passion, fun and mild danger for all us pyromaniacs!
Gunpowder, rockets, bonfires, parades, tapas, sangria and mischief is in abundance, yet there doesn’t seem to be any serious trouble at all.
While the Valencians come out in force to celebrate the passing of winter, the festival is mostly in aid of their Patron Saint of Carpenters, St Joseph.
There is much folklore surrounding where, how and why the celebrations began. But the best part is that it does still revolve around tradition – taken to the highest extreme and turned into one of the best pyrotechnic displays in the world.