A dark spring night many hundred years ago, the carpenters of Spain’s Valencia region were cleaning out their sheds as usual and piling the old planks in the streets. It would be the day of the patron San José, and the tradition would have them burn the old wood in his honour. But this specific day, something would happen that changed Valencia forever. As always, the carpenters gathered after nightfall to celebrate the coming of the spring. It was a warm night and in a good mood, one of the locals would take off his coat and hang it on one of the planks usually used to hang the gas lights. Another would have pointed and said; “hah, it looks like Ramón!”.
That is how the popular legends tell the story of the origin of the Las Fallas festival, celebrated in March every year. Many Valencians spend the entire year preparing for what is surely one of the most spectacular festivals of the world. Falleros are the craftsmen responsible for the figures and figurines placed all over the city’s streets. They range from the small “ninots” or Fallas Infantiles, through the Fallas Grandes to the 15 meter tall Fallas Especiales seen for example at the Plaza Ayuntamiento. The Fallas builder is financed and helped by his local Casal Faller, a group of people from each neighbourhood. These often have their own traditional dresses and take immense pride in their work and traditions. Some of the bigger Fallas cost around 1 million euro to construct even though they are mainly made of wood and paper maché.
The Casales also invest a lot of time and support in their chosen Fallera. Through a rigorous evaluation process, each Casal chooses two Falleras, one representing the children and the other representing the adults – often a student. They will suit up in 40.000 euro dresses and jewellery weighing up to 7 kilos. All these girsl compete to become the city’s Fallera Mayor who will represent the city throughout the main festival. The position is highly regarded and the girls often tend to cry of joy when being selected and when completing the traditional flower offering in the honour of the Virgin Mary.
Another significant part of the celebration is the powder and fireworks. Valencians love their petards or fire crackers, the higher the bang, the better. Every Sunday in the month leading up to Las Fallas they gather at the Plaza Ayuntamiento for what is called a mascletà. This is a 5 to 10 minute long orgy of craziness, bangs, booms and the earth (and your ear drums) shaking. Last year for the anniversary, 3000 kilos of powder were ignited in one single mascletà. Attending a mascletà is exciting, it is thrilling and it ends in a collective rip-roaring cheer. If you haven’t seen one yet, you should. And if you have, I am sure you want to repeat that feeling. The good thing? It repeats every day at 2pm during the festival.
As if that was not enough, Valencians and tourists will rejoin at night along the old Turia river bed turned park. From any bridge you can witness the greatness of Valencia’s world famous pyrotechnics companies. If sound was the integral part of the mascletà, during the night it is the visual that is the centre of attention. The sound of the huge thumps when heavy loaded rockets are pushing the ground away to create a colour explosion dominating the night sky. The grandness of the orchestration. The crowd’s cheer when an innovation is introduced. The fierce competition between the different companies. Few places in the world can offer anything like it.
When the calendar says the 19th of March it signals the end of the festival. And if you thought it was all crazy before, it is about to reach a whole new level. After spending a million euros and a year of hard work to raise all the Fallas statues, they will honour the old traditions by pouring a flammable mixture all over them and give the Fallera the tool to ignite a huge fire consuming the figures until only ashes are left. Only the year’s two voted winners will survive in the Fallas museum. It is a fitting end, the Cremà.
This year, the Fallas festival will be even more special. You have the opportunity to join us at Penya Chescandinavia in Valencia to live these special days – most of us in the board will be there. During the festival, Valencia will also have the opportunity to revenge the loss at Deportivo la Coruña, when the two meet the weekend of the 15th. We will of course discuss tickets with the club for those who confirm participation here in this order form. (only match tickets). If you stay longer, it could also be an opportunity to join the team at Elche for the away game against our local friends the weekend after.
Depending on the number of people joining or showing interest we will plan other activities while we are in the city – so please be early in doing so!