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Las Fallas of Valencia: The City Comes Alive!

Las Fallas of Valencia are here! 

Since we arrived we’ve been hearing about this annual celebration that overtakes the city for several weeks. According to locals, the tradition originates from old ways of celebrating the arrival of spring and the feast of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. People used to burn piles of wood from the winter months on a bonfire, and by gradually adding old belongings, clothes, etc. some of the structures came to resemble humans. Over time Valencians began constructing these ‘ninots’ out of paper-mache and other raw materials, becoming more elaborate, artistic, and occasionally satirical. In seeing some of the ninots on display, it made me think of the grandeur and artistry of the Rose Bowl Parade floats, though of course on a smaller scale. 

From late February through 19 March, every day brings a calendar of activities: pyrotechnics, parades, street music processions, parties, and more. Each day at 2pm there is a ‘mascleta’ fireworks display at the central Plaza del Ayuntamiento (outside the main city hall). Biking back from my Pilates class, I managed to catch the daily mascleta today as thousands of people filled the surrounding streets. And damn, is it loud even from blocks away. Our local friends Heather and Glen also clued us in on one of the best spots in town to watch the mascleta: Bharat Indian Restaurant, just adjacent to the Ayuntamiento, where we had fantastic views (and food) while avoiding the crowd chaos on the street below.

There are also hundreds of ‘casals’ (neighborhood associations) that spend months constructing their own ninots, wearing traditional dress of ‘falleros’ from different historical periods, and basically doing a whole lot of partying in the streets. At the end of Fallas, they will burn all the ninot (except for the winning one) on the final night in a huge bonfire called La Crema. 

We’ve been told to get our noise-cancelling headphones ready for Jacob as often random fireworks and poppers go off in the streets. We also happen to live in the old city with a lot of the Fallas activity, so have been told not to expect much sleep for the last week; that should be interesting with a little kid. We’re happy to have my dear friend Jill and her husband Joshua visiting for the last weekend of Fallas so we can enjoy the festivities in town.

Here goes our first Fallas!