The five day festival of Las Fallas takes place annually in Valencia and marks the coming of Spring. Each neighbourhood constructs a giant, grotesque and often satirical work of art that will then be burnt in the culmination of the festival in the spirit of ‘out with the old, in with the new.’ Every March thousands of tourists descend upon Spain’s third largest city to experience a once in a lifetime assault on the senses.
The Fallas has to be experienced first hand in order to capture the true feel of a city that comes alive for five days and which erases the word sleep from its dictionary for the course of the festivities. Ross, an Erasmus student from Cambridge exclaims, ‘‘the city quite literally erupts into festival mode with constant exploding fireworks, brass bands and parties. It’s amazing!’’
Valencia during Las Fallas reinforces the Spanish stereotype of non-stop fiesta with the emergence of outdoor discos, pop up Mojito stands (beware the Spaniards aren’t frugal with their alcohol), firework displays, processions of Falleras (girls in traditional outfits worth thousands of Euros) and finally the incessant sound of children and excited adults launching fireworks and firecrackers in the street. Be prepared to sprint at the sight of a firecracker being thrown directly at you.
From the beginning of March every day at 2pm sharp a Mascletà takes place in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. The ground shakes as hundreds of petardos or firecrackers are set off in rhythm, filling the skies with the pungent smell of gunpowder and your ears with the ruckus of unrelenting explosions.
Tradition is extremely important to the Spaniards who despite their economic difficulties put on the most extravagant spectacle bringing Valencia to a standstill. Ana, a student at the University of Valencia explains, ‘the Fallas are what distinguish us from other parts of Spain even within the autonomous Valencian Community. For years we’ve continued to follow the traditions of our ancestors and whilst parties are a highlight of the festivities, tradition is equally as important and there are many religious events such as the offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary.’
Bittersweet best describes the Fallas. Whilst the Falleras might cry at the sight of the burning Fallas (there’s no health and safety here), I’ll be glad when the madness that has invaded the city is over. The festival is definitely not for the faint hearted but if you’re in search of an edge of your seat, high energy experience then the Fallas are not to be missed. Now commences the city’s week long hangover…