Last year I already wanted to write about this 3-week fire fest in May. But I was too excited and I didn’t it. Of course last year it was my first Fallas (pronounced [fajas]) in Valencia. I was very very surprised about audible fireworks, beautiful sculptures, fires, lots of people and traditions.
So this year Fallas started again.
Valencia’s world-famous festival of art, fire, food and music is now officially part of UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Let’s start from the beginning: where did this celebration come from? As my Spanish teacher told me: many years ago in the spring people wanted to get rid of old things so they used to take their old things to the streets (for example furniture). They used to stack things one on top of the other and that’s how a large tower was built. The easiest way to get rid of it was to burn everything. In a way, it was spring cleaning after the winter.
In modern times nobody burns any old things on the streets. It would seem very strange.
But the burning is still going on. What do they burn? Beautiful and very huge sculptures. But why? One moment and I will tell you everything.
What makes this festival different and interesting?
First of all, they build beautiful sculptures in all neighborhoods. These sculptures are effigies of famous people and politicians. Very huge and colorful too, sometimes even the size of buildings. They serve the purpose of making fun of celebrities or actual events in the world. There are about 200 sculptures built in the city.
Photo taken by me
Another interesting fact is that everybody comes together to their neighborhood community to create their own sculptures each year. It’s great to see how people are united in their common goal. They are very cooperative and want to create the most beautiful sculpture each year. I have never seen such united, friendly and supportive neighbors anywhere.
There is a tradition to throw audible firecrackers on the street. And so does everyone from the smallest to the biggest. Bombers have special clothes and carry the boxes on the neck with the explosives. Even the little kids who cannot speak yet, do this. The most important thing is to cause a lot of noise with firecrackers.
For three weeks, the whole city turns into a complete war zone. Walking around the city looks something like this: you take three steps and jump into the air, take three steps again and … These jumps are due to fright. Because even if you see that children throw a bomb, it always explodes unexpectedly and very loudly. At first, we called it a dance of seizures and we thought that we would dance this dance for a few more months after it all.
The second year is a bit easier.
Unfortunately, this is the worst time for all animals in the city.
Audible fireworks which are called “Mascleta” come every day at 2 p.m. in the main square of the city. Audible, because everything is made for sound. You only see a lot of smoke and hear a lot of noise. This way fireworks cause not visual beauty but very different feelings through sound in the body. Most often I feel very dizzy.
“Mascleta” happens every day for three weeks. Crowds of people come to see it or more accurately feel this event. You can hear the sound from 2km away.
Video from Valencia Bonita Facebook page
In the last week, the city is calm only 2 hours from 6 a.m. (when people return home) to 8 a.m. because at 8 in the morning starts “Desperta”. This is a ritual where the participants of the festival march on the streets and explode firecrackers. So every morning explosions awaken all neighbors.
I have not experienced it in any other festival, it’s completely unique.
Lots of people
One million tourists come to this fest so the city becomes alive for all days and nights. Sometimes it looks like you’re getting into another world because the whole city looks different. The locals are already tired of this bustle. People who live in the center of the city try to get out somewhere during this holiday.
Photo taken by Martin Jokub
And of course, it’s very important to watch out for pickpockets.
Carnivals and street dances
There are various carnivals in which you can see many marchers dressed in special traditional and luxurious clothes. Women’s dresses look very beautiful. As I know, it’s very expensive to make these dresses. There are also special hairstyles that women wear in these carnivals. It is huge honor for locals to walk in these clothes.
Photo taken by me
Street dances in this celebration are also a normal thing. Night dancing usually takes place from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Even returning home after dancing at 6 a.m. you can see a lot of people in the city and it is difficult to pass throw them on foot. These dances are very entertaining, though. Can you imagine great weather, a DJ, a venue surrounded by palm trees, friendly people, midnight and good music – this is real street dance atmosphere. I liked it very much.
At the end of the fest, actually, on last day they burn down these sculptures with impressive fireworks and firecrackers in all neighborhoods. It is so impressive that it looks like the whole city is burning, you can feel like in an alternative world. Firefighters drive from a sculpture to a sculpture to make the burning process safer because burning takes place on narrow streets near the buildings. So on the last night, the city celebrates and burns. This is the culmination and the most spectacular moment of the fest.
Photo taken by me
Photo from Valencia Bonita Facebook page
Video from Top Valencia Facebook page. Burning ceremony in the main square
Next morning everything looks as if it was a fairy tale. The whole city gets cleaned and everything ends.
I know that it’s better to see it once than to hear or read about it ten times. So I definitely recommend you to come see this fest and experience this city craziness 100 percent. It’s well worth it.
Was there a lot of sport here? The last few days we walked 25km every day. Our legs really hurt. I like this type of activities because I go for a walk with pleasure and I even don’t feel the number of kilometers. Therefore, for me, such holidays always come to the benefit of the body.