Thursday, August 21, 2014

Las Fallas - One of the most unique festivals in Spain

Every year in March, the city of Valencia gets ready to welcome spring season. The streets fill up with joy and the hustle and bustle of the Fallas festival, the upmost expression of the merger of tradition, satire, art and sentimentality for one's homeland. Las Fallas literally means "the fires" in Valencian.
What started as a feast day for St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, has evolved into a 5-day, multifaceted celebration involving fire.
Valencia, a quiet city with a population of just over 1 million, swells to an estimated three million flame-loving revelers during Las Fallas celebrations.

The focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots (“dolls”), which are huge cardboard, wood, papermachè and plaster statues. The ninots are extremely lifelike and usually depict satirical scenes and current events. A popular theme is poking fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities. The labor intensive ninots, often costing up to US$75,000, are crafted by neighborhood organizations and take almost the entire year to construct. Many are several stories tall and need to be moved into their final location of over 350 key intersections and parks around the city with the aid of cranes on the day of la plantà (the rising).
The ninots remain in place until March 19th, the day known as La Cremá (the burning). Starting in the early evening, young men with axes chop cleverly-hidden holes in the statues and stuff them with fireworks. The crowds start to chant, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire at exactly 12 a.m. (midnight). Over the years, the local bomberos (firemen) have devised unique ways to protect the town's buildings from being accidentally set on fire by the ninots, such as neatly covering storefronts with fireproof tarps. Each year, one of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. This ninot is called the ninot indultat (the pardoned puppet) and is exhibited in the local Museum of the Ninot along with the other favorites from years past.

The five days and nights of Falles are a continuous party. Besides the burning of the ninots, there is a myriad of other activities during the fiesta. During the day, you can enjoy an extensive roster of bullfights, parades, paella contests and beauty pageants around the city. Spontaneous fireworks displays explode everywhere during the days leading up to La Crema, but the highlight is the daily mascletá which occurs in the Plaza Ayuntamiento at exactly 2:00 pm. When the string-lined firecrackers are ignited, the thunderous sounds they make can be considered music as the sound intensifies in volume. Those firecrackers timed to fall to the ground literally shake the floor for next ten minutes, as the mascletá is more for auditive enjoyment than visual.

Foreigners may be surprised to see everyone from small children to elderly gentlemen throwing fireworks and noisemakers in the streets, which are littered with pyrotechnical debris. The timing of the events is fixed and they fall on the same date every year, though there has been discussion about holding some events on the weekend preceding the Falles, to take greater advantage of the tourist potential of the festival or changing the end date in years where it is due to occur in midweek.


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  2. Oh..great! Its looking amazing. I am never heard about this festival but it is looking very interesting & unique. Thanks for sharing!
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