Chescandinavia Newsletter

1 2015


Las Fallas in Valencia – Louder and hotter than any other fiesta

by Daniel Cervera
Suggested soundtrack: Nino Bravo - Mi Tierra, from Las Fallas in the 70s, filmed in Super 8, yes, that Tarantino thing!
Join Chescandinavia and friends at Las Fallas - you don't have to be a member! If you only have one occasion to visit the city of Valencia, make sure to do it during the Las Fallas fiesta. They say the festival is shy of a week long, from the 15th until the culmination on the 19th of March each year, but preparations starts earlier on the day the previous Fallas is over. The whole community is involved to make this another unforgettable experience. The Fallas, or Les Falles in Valencian language, is about burning everything that is bad, and the rebirth from the ashes, to welcome a new season. There are many smaller Fallas celebrations throughout the Valencian region, and similar festivities in the world, but none match the city of Valencia’s.
Each day begins with a wake-up call at 8 am called La Despertà. You might think that being awakened by brass bands marching down the streets, accompanied by loud firecrackers would get most up from their beds? Wrong. A lot of the party people haven't even gone to bed yet! And the other part are quite eager to engulf the new Fallas day. Streets are packed with leisure people all day, but notably at night. Crowds are international yet many are locals dressed up in traditional clothing, whole families appear as from centuries ago. Most notable are the Ladies of Honor, with their Princess Leia-hairstyle and wonderfully intricate dresses. resizer
All major events in the las Fallas fiesta are opened and witnessed by the Fallas court of honor: local girls selected and appointed a half a year earlier under great ceremonial circumstance, children and young women. Among these Damas we find the queen of queens; la reina, the Fallera Mayor. Consider her a more epic version of the Swedish Saint Lucia nominee, reaching a special stardom that makes fans(!) want to salute, hug and shake hands, even years after she's been succeeded by other Fallera queens. Throughout the numerous activities and events taking place, some are more important than others; the monumental Ninots figures display, the Ofrenda floral offering, the Nit del foc fireworks and the silly loud Masclèta cracker salutes. We'll go into those in detail, but be assured there are plenty of other activities throughout the days of this fiesta. Getting rest will be for another week. Oh, some spectacles and events begin on March 1st, not the 15th as would be expected. Why wait to start the festivities? Apart from the aforementioned highlights, the Fallas program is stuffed with official events, but there are lots more, taking advantage of the packs of visitors.
A more shameful part of the Fallas events is the bullfighting scene. While on the decline, the almost daily bullfights of Las Fallas still draw a lot of audience. Immoral or not, it is considered one of the more prestigious bullfighting ferias of Spain. Last year over 80.000 people saw these bloody fights live. Let's hope they at least begin to transition to the older form of non-lethal acrobatic bullfighting style. Other public events of less violent nature include veteran car shows, numerous band marches - playing traditional flute and drum music, tasty Paella competitions, folkloristic dance shows, acts from famous and not so famous artists (such as the only all-Alzheimer's Choir!). I could go on and on but you get the picture. Some events may not be to your taste, but there is something for everybody: kids, raving youth, grumpy old people, happy old people, and everyone in between. It's a huge carnival, with a unique Valencian touch.images
For the soul searcher, ceremonies are held in the great cathedral, notably the one to homage Saint Joseph (San José), the patron saint of carpenters. And here we find the connection to the origins of Las Fallas, where carpenters started to build what later would become gigantic pieces and figurines, as much as 10 meters high. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages when the carpenters built 'parots' from leftover planks to support the many candles used wintertime. As light came back, these parots would be burnt, celebrating the end of the dark days. That evolutionized, as the parots were dressed up, often with a pun to an identifiable local dignity, until those grandiose figures seen today. Nowadays, each neighbourhood Valencia district has an organising committee, the ‘casal faller’, who raise the necessary funding for constructing the ninots. There is even an area of the city called the Ciutat Fallera where whole groups of workers and designers spend months creating all the incredible towering tableaux. The ninots, which are placed at key places throughout the city, are nowadays often cruel satirical lampoons of well-known celebrities and politicians on both Spanish and international scenes.
   

Mascletà - Daily

Fallas-valencia-route66-idiomas-1024x691From 1 to 19 March, every day at 2 pm sharp, in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento square, the city vibrates to the sound of the traditional mascletà, a display of gunpowder explosions that beats out a unique sound. It is not only a sound, it is a sensation you get in your whole body - and you should really cover your ears. There are YouTube clips of mascletas, but they are utterly useless to convey the feeling. Pregnant women are forbidden to attend and each year people are injured or faint. It is true that you should keep your mouth open to allow the sound to escape your body – but be prepared to feel the ground shake beneath your feet and your head to spin. This is an adrenaline rush with few equals and a completely unique experience. Afterwards, the city’s terraces fill up as people go to enjoy a typical aperitif and some traditional Valencian foods under the Mediterranean sun, some with a ringing noise in their ears Yes, the climate can be very generous already in March, albeit somewhat unpredictable. What's more predictable is the chance of seeing the local jetset and politicians walking by, saluting from balconies and the red carpets on various expositions and premieres. It is like any other major parade, with celebs on display.

17th of March - Ninot Prize Ceremony

am_79213_4522509_554763On the morning, Falleros and their commissions go to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to collect their prizes. Prior to the ceremony the jury visits all of the city’s sculptures, of which there are over 750 including the large and the children’s sculptures, in order to decide upon the winners of different categories.   This is a good opportunity to see what will perish, and appreciate the craftsmanship involved.
 

La plantà. Early 15 to 16 March

On the night of 15 to 16 March the plantà (installation) takes place, when the falleros and falleras, the men and women who have constructed the fallas monuments, get together to work through the night on erecting the. The must finish by dawn on the 16th. It's part of the charm and the competition. Most of the ninots have a very clear satirical message, ranging from local community to the world politics.
 

From 15 to 19 March - Fire in the skiesfuegos-artificiales

Every night from 15 to 18 March, the sky of Valencia is filled with the light and colour of impressive firework displays. And when we say impressive, we mean it. These fireworks may very well faint your standard New Year's display. At 12 midnight, people gather on Paseo de la Alameda street to enjoy the best display of colour and light.
   

Ofrenda de Flores (Offering of Flowers) 17 and 18th of March

All of the city’s fallas commissions will take place in a parade from their respective districts to the Plaza de la Virgin square in order to make an offering of flowers to Our Lady of the Forsaken, the patron saint of Valencia; La Virgen de Los Desamparados. The celebration takes place from 4 pm until past nightfall. With all of the bunches of flowers given by the falleras to the Virgin, an impressive 15 metre-high tapestry formed on the main façade of the Basilica church, and a mantle is made for the Virgin. The smell of it! Musical bands playing add to the senses too. This event, as many others, are televised live on local channels, as the steady stream of falleros & falleras come with their flower bundles. Of course, relatives and friends want to see to see their fallero make the offer, important traditional stuff. Some ten thousand people are on that square too, mind you.

17-18th of March - Night of Fire

The culmination of the fireworks is the spectacular Nit del foc (Night of Fire), held during the early am hours on the 18th, with a fireworks display second to none in the world. If you want to catch only one fireworks display, this is it. Again, Youtube clips will not do the real experience any justice. http://www.rtve.es/m/alacarta/videos/fallas/nit-crema-2015/3071838/?media=tve

La Cremà (The Burning) 19th of March

fallas-ardiendo-1024x682On March 19 all of the sculptures, both those in the large and the children’s categories, go up in flames. At 10 pm the Cremà of the children’s sculptures begin on various spots throughout the city. Two hours later it is the turn of the large monuments. The falla in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento square is the last one to burn, at 1 am in the morning. It is always preceded by a small display of - you guessed it - spectacular fireworks, which fill the square with noise, light and colour, ultimately leading to the Cremà of the city’s last falla and with it - the end of the festival. The ninots will all have been stuffed full with fireworks, the street lights switched off and the firemen are in position when the 10 meter models, which have taken months of careful construction, will be burnt to the ground. Flames are high, shadows dance on the house façades, the heat is burning your skin, the atmosphere is intoxicatingly passionate, as people head to the final party. The burning of the Halmbock of Gävle is nothing in comparison. Each year, one ninot is spared by public vote – the rest suffer an arduous fate, as the end of the Las Fallas go up in flames.
FALLERO MUSEUM At this museum, all the different aspects that make up the history of the Fallas since its origins are brought together, together with posters and the ninots indultats (the pardoned figures) from the past. Even if you don't go to Valencia during Las Fallas, it's worth a visit to get a taste and feel of it. Plaza Monteolivete, 4 · 46006 Valencia Links Official site: www.fallas.com