Cultura Valenciana – The fiestas, the food and the Leyas!

by Michael Jacobsen

Suggested soundtrack: Valencia! - Mario Lanza

Valencian culture is something special. Very traditional but yet reinvented and modernized.

bilde 1Penya Chescandinavia are going to Valencia during the torch festival (Fallas), so let us begin this cultural map by telling you about this two-week festival. Fallas celebrates Saint Joseph, as Valencians gather to create and then burn down monuments. The festival has become a true industry in itself! Each Valencia village organizes a group of people, known as the “Casal fallers”, who works all year by fundraising for and constructing these “Falla” sculptures out of paper, wax, wood, and obviously polystyrene foam. The Casal fallers will meet to make these “falles” monuments or “ninots” puppets according to an agreed upon theme, usually resembling and ridiculing famous characters like Barack Obama vs. Vladimir Putin, before letting them lead the grand parade of each village.

Participants play on the “dolcaina” reed-instrument and “tabalet” drum. Musically, Valencia is known as the “Vienna of Spain”, as it is the Spanish city with the largest number of music bands. These bands are mainly wind and percussion ones. Fallas participants wear “casal faller” costumes from different eras in Valencian history. Traditional Valencian clothes are spectacular and may cost thousands of euros, which is why Valencians also wear them at formal events like a wedding or fiesta. Indeed, Valencia have proud traditions from textiles, ranging back to the Al-Andalus period where designers and workers formed a textile center in the once so prosperous Mediterranean trading.

bilde 2Traditional craftworks are still popular in Valencia. Another Arab-inspired custom is ceramics, eventually developing into an art that is to be seen everywhere in the public, even in new buildings such as the City of Arts and Science. Valencia was was also an early mover in installing the movable type printing press known by Johannes Gutenberg, opening a big literature industry with famous authors like Joanot Martorell and Ausiàs March. Although traditional industries including agricultural activities are diminishing to the employment of only 1.9% Valencians nowadays, they are still important ingredients in the current service economy that employs 84% Valencians in tourism, telecommunications and transport.

bilde 3Food deserves a special mention. Valencian food seem to be about sharing, as it is often served on a multi-person platform like a plate or a can. The main dish is simmered rice, paella, that you get with different topics like seafood, vegetables, or preferably chicken – con el pollo. Squid is a Mediterranean delicacy that may be cooked in a paella, known as Arròs Negre. Local desserts are mainly the horchata, a beverage made from almonds, sesame seeds, barley, tigernuts and of course rice. It is popular all over the Latin world nowadays but a legend says that it was named by King Jaume 1, who after being given the drink for the 1st time by a local in Valencia village Alboraya was said to have shouted Açò és or, xata! –Valencian for “that’s gold, darling!”. Valencians even have invented a sugar-glazed bread, farton, only to dip in the horchata!


Orange fruits symbolize Valencia and thus many local beverages. “Valencian Water”, agua de Valencia, mixes oranges with gin, vodka, and a base of cava or champagne – our can of Valencian water went down to fast last year which may be because fellow-member Pål held back info about the true content!

In the end, like every other culture, you really have to experience it on your own. What better way than joining our trip to Valencia during the Fallas festival in March?