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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fallas 2012 Valencia 15th - 19th March 2012

The idea of Las Fallas de Valencia was first cooked up by the medieval guilds, especially the wood workers who swept up spare pieces of wood, shavings and junk into a huge bonfire on the feast day of their patron saint, St Joseph. As the inter-guild competition heated up, passions flared, so did creativity and bonfires now included bizarre effigies (fallas) of despised rivals. And so began a tradition that evolved into the major tourist attraction of Valencia. In the days of yore, effigies were made of unpopular people or events and strung up across streets and burnt. Today this still happens though the materials used are more sophisticated with these effigies being mounted on floats and platforms which are wheeled in a processions down the city streets.

Celebrations at Las Fallas de Valencia

The five day festival is a carnival of bonfires, fireworks, parades, shows, and other festivities, as it also celebrates the arrival of spring. Every day the day starts at 8 am sharp with a ‘wakeup call or la Desperata as it is called. Bands march down the main streets of the town and firecrackers are burned as peppy music rents the air.

At 2 pm it’s time for the La Mascleta which takes place in the different neighborhoods of the city – this is a run up to the main event of Mascleta held on 19 March at the Plaça de l’Ajuntamen. This is when fire crackers and pyrotechnics rule the roost and competitions are held to choose the brightest best fire! Prizes are also awarded for the most ingenious use of left over materials.

The spectacular event of garlanding Our Lady of the Forsaken takes place on 17 and 18 March at 4 pm when people offer flower garlands to the patron saint.

Every night there are firework displays in the city and the final one on the last night is the most magnificent with firecrackers and fireworks lighting up the skies.

Las Fallas gets under way on March 16, when all competing Fallas have to be completed. Taking in some cases up to a year to plan, design and build, these models are spread all over the city for the festive week. Some encapsulate entire scenes from cartoons and fairytales using sets of dwarf-sized figures called ninots.

The focus turns to religion on the following two days, with a Catholic procession known as La Ofrenda. At this time fallas makers ceremoniously bring flowers to the city’s central Plaza of the Virgin, which are used to decorate an enormous wooden-framed statue of Mary. The procession pageants that trail through the center of the city to the plaza on these days are a colorful and pretty sight, with many groups in period costumes and sassy Latin marching bands.

One feature of Las Fallas you definitely can’t ignore is the fireworks displays that blast all around town for the duration of the festival. Occurring three times daily, the fireworks kick off with an 8am display known as la despertà. At 2pm at the main Plaza del Ayuntamiento there is a gigantic fireworks display called la mascletà that centers around a 120-kilo gunpowder blast. Perhaps the most special of the three is el castillo, the midnight fireworks display that reaches its height on the final night of the festival, dubbed la nit de foc, or “night of fire”.

The climax of Las Fallas is la cremà, the night when each of the models in turn is set alight between 10pm and 1am. This dramatic, unusual display may appear like a harrowing street riot at first, but once you adjust your eyes you can enjoy the festival atmosphere and communal sense of seasonal renewal.
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