Fallas Festival of Valencia

Woodworkers of Valencia burning lumber scraps during their annual spring cleaning has evolved into one of Spain’s noisiest and most colorful festivals. In honor of St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters (and pyromaniacs), the Fallas Festival of Valencia culminates on his feast day of March 19th with a riot of fireworks and bonfires that would even inspire Burning Man to stand up and cheer.

Kids 2

“I want to be a pyrotechnician when I grow up”

Locals of all ages share this passion for fun, fire and hearing loss. All over town, even pre-school age children carry wooden boxes containing their personal stash of explosives. The youngest ones, under the tutelage of their parents, learn to use cigarette lighters, light fuses, and entertain themselves with gunpowder detonations.

Construct Big 2

Constructing the Big Falla in City Hall Square

As the festival draws near, hundreds of elaborate high-rise monuments (fallas) begin to appear in public squares and street intersections throughout the city. Combining tradition, satire, and art, neighborhood organizations and civic groups construct the fallas out of highly combustible wood, cardboard, sculpted Styrofoam, and papier-mâché.

Churros

Bañuelos and Churros, Festival Street Food

On March 15th, the building of the fallas is finalized and the five-day festival officially begins. Visitors and locals crowd the streets to admire the completed fallas and street illuminations, and enjoy deep-fried street food, roving DJs, and a fair amount of excessive drinking.

Dresses 3

The Floral Offering Parade

For the next two days, the Valencian women, men, and children dress in lavish traditional outfits and parade through the streets to make their emotional floral offerings to Our Lady of the Forsaken, Valencia’s patroness. For nearly twenty hours, thousands of devotees strut their stuff in a continuous stream of sequined dresses and marching bands.

Fireworks Ayuntamiento

Fireworks in City Hall Square

Each night during the festival, Valencia demonstrates its love of exploding projectiles with massive fireworks shows. At 1:30 am, in the opening hours of the festival’s final day, the city stays up late to celebrate Nit del Foc (Night of Fire), a truly amazing display of the pyrotechnical and noisemaking arts.

Fire Parade 2

The Fire Parade

After a few hours of sleep, the final night of the festival arrived with fever pitch. Just past sunset, crowds lined both sides of the street for the scintillating Fire Parade. With street lights snuffed out, high-spirited characters dressed in hooded red robes dashed by with handheld pinwheels and sparklers raining embers upon the wide-eyed onlookers.

Child Falla

Rigging the Children’s Falla for ignition

Following the Fire Parade, hundreds of children’s fallas were incinerated throughout the city with great fanfare. These smaller and cuter fallas are lit with a series of fireworks, one of which accidentally ignited the balcony of an adjacent apartment building. Once the children’s fallas and any other unintended fires were extinguished, the large fallas were set ablaze.

Burn Big Falla

Burning of the Fallas

From our vantage point, within spitting distance of the massive monumental falla, the incendiary structure was instantly engulfed in flames. Thick black smoke billowed, and the heat grew so intense that we were forced to retreat, while firefighters on-scene sprayed the flames with their high-pressure water hoses.

Finale

The Grand Finale, City Hall Square

On cue, a steady rain began to help douse the flames. The rain; however, was no match for the festival finale, and the burning of the largest falla in City Hall Square. To a standing ovation, the flames from the giant monument roared high into the misty night sky, imparted a fitting orange glow over the city, and marked the close of this year’s Fallas Festival of Valencia.

Claire and Es

Claire and Esther

Blogger’s Note: Our eldest daughter Claire took some time off work to join us in Valencia to experience the Fallas festival. She is an adventurous traveler, and helped us stay awake well past our bedtimes to experience all the late-night activities. She will be leaving us soon, but plans to pay us another visit next month after we move on to Cadiz.

A few more photos and a short video:

Women Falla

Cleopatra Falla

Trump and Kim

Trump, Putin, and Kim

Dresses

 

 

27 thoughts on “Fallas Festival of Valencia

  1. Holy Moly! Did you plan to be there for that festival, or were you just lucky with your timing? The Fallas are so wonderful to look at (they even managed to make Trump look… ummmm… stylish). I can’t believe they are set on fire. So nice that your daughter joined you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Janis, I have always wanted to attend the Fallas Festival, and when we decided to spend the spring in Spain, I lobbied hard for March in Valencia. There were several fallas of Trump, ranging from sorta-stylish to outright indecent. I wish I could have seen them all burned to the ground. Otherwise, it is truly astounding to me how they take these extraordinary fallas that take months to create, and burn them down in five short (yet exciting) minutes.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow what an extravaganza! Really enjoyed your photos and description of the Fallas festival. The burning and the fire remind me of something we experienced when we lived in Nicaragua. At New Year people burn chairs and run through the streets. Not something I would advocate, certainly seems dangerous, but this brought back those memories. This looks pretty sophisticated in organization and all, which the Nicaraguan one definitely was not haha.

    Enjoyed your post.

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Peta! As your Nicaragua story highlights, there are so many fun and unusual traditions around the world, many of which involve burning stuff. It is also interesting to me how the simple carpenter’s chore of cleaning out their workshops and burning the scrap wood evolved into such an elaborate celebration. I think we all enjoy a little merrymaking, and fire provides a fitting focus. Safety be damned!

      Like

  3. How fantastic to be able to experience this incredible festival. A health and safety nightmare for the fire brigade no doubt. The fallas are all so beautifully done, such a shame they go up in smoke at the end, but I guess that is all part of the fun. Looks like your apartment was perfectly located to experience it all? Great that your daughter was able to join you guys. An unforgettable experience for sure😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • The three of us had a lot of fun, Gilda. The Spanish seem to prefer festivals with some element of danger involved. The Running of the Bulls and the Human Towers come to mind. We were shocked by how close to buildings and the public they allowed the fires. Besides the balcony fire, we saw fireworks ricochet off buildings and sparks from the Fire Parade landed on my head and started to burn my scalp. The young kids encouraged to play with firecrackers was another surprise. In the end, I am sure that there were a lot of burned fingers, but I have not heard of any serious accidents. Unforgettable, for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

    • They have no regard for their hearing, Neil. For five days, it sounded like an around-the-clock war zone, with megatons of explosives bombarding the city. The locals advised us that earplugs are not needed as long as you just keep your mouth open during the detonations. After the festival ended, the quiet was deafening.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Moira! Safety is a relative thing. The fires and fireworks in close proximity to buildings and spectators would never be allowed at home. There doesn’t seem to be any regulations on fireworks usage. We saw police officers watching 6 year olds throwing cherry bombs and M-80s. Valencia would be a fun place to be a kid!

      Like

  4. Love the Burning Man reference — someone should to at least highlight your clever reference there); along with your wonderful remark to Janis here in the comments (re: Trump); you can apparently take the boy out of the U.S., but the U.S. stays within the traveling boy apparently!

    The parade looks amazing as did the fireworks. Somewhere in my bucket list I will now add the Fallas Festival. Great post, Joe. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marty. The Fallas Festival reminded me of Burning Man without the dust and nudity. The fallas are not quite as large as the Man and other structures set alight at Burning Man, but they do burn much faster and closer to the spectators. Speaking of nudity, one falla included a line-up of Franco, Stalin, Hitler, and Trump wearing only their hats. I would have loved to include a picture, but this is a family-friendly blog. – Joe

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, this was a great festival to enjoy vicariously through you! I think I would have been huddled under the covers — loud booms aren’t really my thing. But it’s clear they put a lot of work and passion into the event. Must have been something to experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it vicariously, Christi. If you are not a fan of crushing crowds, large fires that singe your eyebrows, and booms that make the marbles in your head rattle, the Fallas Festival is probably best left for idiots like me. Truth be told, I enjoyed the experience, but am now really loving the peace, tranquility, and sleep.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a fun and unusual festival! I loved the costumes (and you can bet I would have been in line for the fried food), but I have to admit some of the fires would have made me a little bit nervous. Still, what an terrifice experience! I’m glad your daughter was there to encourage you to stay up late and see it all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Fallas Festival has something for everyone, Ann. The traditional women’s costumes were absolutely gorgeous, unique and decorative. The men’s costumes, on the other hand, included knickers, earth tone serapes, and head wraps that made them look like pirates. Even the kids and babies in strollers were dressed up. Looking back at the photos in this post, they were all taken at night. We can thank Claire for that!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi JaNann, Like all of the best festivals, the Fallas Festival was beautiful, fun, and exciting. They had spectacular traditional costumes, crazy parades, pretty lights, loud fireworks, and huge bonfires all wrapped into five entertaining days. We hope that all is well with you, Joe & Es

      Like

    • No way, Dave. They would be like sharks at a feeding frenzy. I haven’t read it, but Spain’s declaration of independence probably considers their unalienable rights to be life, liberty, and the pursuit of uninsured risk-taking.

      Like

Leave a Reply to snakesinthegrass2014 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s