Should you ever find yourself in Valencia, Spain round about mid March you definitely want to check out the Las Fallas festival! It usually occurs between the 15th and 19th and is perhaps the biggest party you will find in Valencia. I was able to experience this for myself in 2012, when my friend Jenn and I decided to take a little road trip from Madrid to Valencia to see our friend Hector, who was also a visiting teacher there. When she explained the concept of the festival to me, I confess I didn’t really understand what the big deal was. I really wasn’t all that keen to go at first, but they talked me into it and man, am I glad they did. Las Fallas translates as “the fires” in Valencian, which is a form of Catalan. The different neighborhoods in Valencia each build these gigantic puppet structures, usually satirical in nature, from wood and paper mache. These are called ninotes.
First of all, getting there. Like I said, we rented a car and took a road trip. This festival is so popular and packed that people actually park a couple of towns away and take the train in! That was an experience in itself. When you get into Valencia, and start walking around, the atmosphere is electric! Aside from the hundreds of ninotes, there are so many little street vendors, parades, drinks, tapas, bull fights, you will never run out of things to see. You get a booklet telling you where exactly all the ninotes are so you can plan which ones you want to be sure and see. There is so much art and effort that goes into building these, you have to see them in person to appreciate them.
The parades are really neat, and I especially liked the fallarinas/falleras that march, dance and sing all while wearing beautiful, traditional dresses.
There are also beauty pageants, where they will crown an equivalent of what you would call Miss Las Fallas…ok so that’s not the name, but you get the idea! As you walk around the streets, big pans of paella are cooking and often you can just grab a fork and dig in. As the night goes on you start to realize how far you have walked, the crowd gets rowdier, but you realize there is still lots to see as they begin lighting up the different statues.
Tragically, on the last day of Las Fallas, they will begin setting all the statues on fire! That’s right, on fire! They call it La Crema, or the burning. We were not there on the last day to witness this in person, but it has to be an incredible thing to watch. We did see how many of the buildings had fireproof screens placed on them in preparation for the burning so that they will not catch on fire when the ninotes are ignited. If you would like more historical information on this, visit DonQuijote.org and read the write on the festival.
We were only really there for the day but as we headed back to our car after a very long day of walking around the festival, we definitely decided it was a place we wanted to come back to. Las Fallas was truly a memorable experience!
Buen Viaje, gnomies!
Have you been to Valencia and/or seen Las Fallas? Please comment and let me know of your experiences.