If I had to describe Spain in only one word, that word would have to be fiesta. From north to south of the country, throughout the year it’s pretty easy to stumble across some crazy Spanish festival, and last week saw the Spaniards celebrating one of their most explosive fiestas of the year!
Las Fallas (meaning “the fires” in Valencian) is the name of this unique Festival celebrated in March every year in the south of Spain, and it is without a doubt the loudest and quite possibly the craziest of all the Spanish festivities. It is estimated that almost 3 million people participate in the four/five day long spectacle, throwing bangers, letting off fireworks and burning large hand-crafted statues.
The amount of time and work that goes into making these sculptures is incredible. During my time in Spain, I was lucky enough to experience this particular extravaganza not once, but three times! On each occasion I was more amazed by not only the intricate detail, but the immense size of some of the statues. So big in fact, that some of them require the help of trucks and cranes in order to assemble them and distribute them throughout the city. Neighbourhood organisations will spend up to a year planning, preparing and constructing these fascinating models, which tend to represent Spanish celebrities or interpret a current or well known cultural event. Being made from cardboard, plaster and paper machè means that the statues are easy to burn and collapse… which is actually the whole point of this loco festival.
On my first visit, I had no idea what to expect from the “bonfires” that I had heard everyone talking about. On the night of March 19th, the city is lit up by flames and fireworks as each and every model is set alight. This night is known as the La Crema, which literally means the burning. Leading up to this date, all statues will have been seen, judged and awarded prizes. In the centre of the city, holding pride of place in the Townhall’s square, you will find the grand prize winner of the whole event. At midnight on this date, following a huge firework display, the great statue begins to burn therefore signalling that all others may follow suit. Almost all together, lines of firecrackers set off and make their way towards each individual model before igniting them and lighting up the city’s dark streets with flames and fire. Most tend to be margined off by small fences and fire fighters are always on hand, but try not to stand too close as both the smell and heat are pretty intense.
In March of 2008, some friends and I made the journey from Murcia to Valencia, and in order to make the most of the festivities we kept ourselves going for 30 straight hours! (the joys of being young and full of energy!) I remember watching one of the fallas burn and being rather stunned at how close everyone was standing to it. I had a video somewhere, maybe on an old phone, and you can hear the fire fighters in the background screaming at the crowd to move back as flakes of ash began to fall over us and the flames grew stronger. It was a weirdly scary but exciting experience.
Aside from the models and the burning, during the Fallas Festival there are a number of other events taking place throughout the day. Just walking around the city you’ll find people having paella competitions, mini stages set up for concerts, bull fights (of which I am not a fan) market stalls, and stand yourself in the right place at the right time and you’ll be in prime position for watching one of the many parades that take over the streets. The processions often include women in traditional clothing, bands walking by playing tunefully away and an offering of flowers to the large statue of The Virgin (one that does not get burned). The must see event during the day however, is The Mascletà. This takes place at 2pm every afternoon over the course of the fiesta and it involves firecrackers, fireworks and an insane amount of gunpowder. For ten almost heart stopping minutes, the walls of the city vibrate as the skies are filled with thick smoke and deafening bangs make you feel like the town is under attack!
I feel I have not done this festival justice; the craziness of daytime fireworks and large bonfires to terminate celebrations just have to be experienced live. Although I am not a huge fan of surprise bangs, I enjoyed myself on each occasion. If the heat of a flame and a powerful smoky aroma does not bother you, then I suggest that you checkout this amazing Spanish party.
Welcome to my blogging world. Join me on my writing journey as I jot down all sorts; from things that make me happy and giggle, to travels and adventures already experienced. There may be moments when things get a little more serious, but mainly I'm here to share my thoughts and stories and learn lots from fellow bloggers. :-)
View All Posts