Fallas. To start I’ll explain a bit about what it is. The origins are from the late 1400’s artisans worked long hours throughout the winter by the light of oil lamps hung from wooden structures. Upon the arrival of spring these structures were no longer needed so they just decided to light it on fire. Throughout the years they for more creative with this whole burning process and it was immediately adopted to celebrate the arrival of warmer, longer days, and it was dedicated to San José (Saint Joseph), the patron saint of carpenters.
In this post I will not take the time to comment on how all of the festivities are funded and how much they cost. This is just a reflection of my expretience.
First to set some things straight with terminology:
- Ninot- the individuals sculptures that make up the Fallas
- Falla 1) the sculpture as a whole with all the individual Ninots 2) the group of people that support the falla (1) financially and have their tent in the street where their falla is with parties and more for their exclusive access.
- Falleras/ Falleros – people of any age (babies in strollers to older people in wheel chairs) who dress up in the traditional Valencian clothing for the festivities
- Mascleta- pyrotechnic event with noisy and rhythmic features, like fireworks minus the color and during daytime
- Petardo- firecracker
- Castillo- fireworks show
- Crema- when all the fallas are burnt
Now to talk about my experience. First was the exposition Del ninot in February. This is where each falla submits a ninot to the competition to see who the winner is and the public can go and vote, obviously I had to participate. There are fallas infantil, which are smaller and regular sized fallas. You could vote for one from each section.
Saturday the 27th of February I gave blood and passed out, again no biggie, but then later went to the first Mascleta that was in the river. It was really cool and emocionante. My favorite part was at the end when it was so strong the ground was shaking and you physically felt like it was hitting you in the face. From this day forward there was a daily Mascleta en plaza de Ayuntamiento at 2:00. I went to a majority of them.
March 5th there was “Cabalgatta de ninot” which was basically a costume parade and I happened to stumble across that and some of them were pretty cool. Later that night we had a surprise for Leo’s birthday and went up into a building that had a view of the plaza and saw the Castillo from there. During these days fallas was enjoyable with the
Valencians out on the street taking everything in. at the beginning there were barely any people at the mascletas but as the days went buy we had to arrive earlier to the mascletas to get a good spot. As the week of fallas approached we had to being to push through the crowed to find friends.
With fallas the transportation is a mess. The metros are packed because it’s the easiest way to get around, busses have changed routed to accommodate for fallas festivities that close roads, and these closed roads also make finding a parking spot impossible. The best option is walking because even with valenbici the convenient stations were full.
The 15th of March was the begging of chaos. I had already been around to see the majority of the fallas so I already had avoided the masses by doing that early but there were still many incidents where they couldn’t be avoided. The 15th was the planta of all the falls, when they had to be totally set up. This day I went with my intercambio to see all the big ones and was extremely tired from staying out late the previous night to see the light show in Calle Cuba.
While I was with my intercambio my camera lens decided to get jammed so that means my camera was out of service for the rest of fallas. A plus of going around to the fallas with my intercambio was that he knows Valenciano so he could tell me what the little signs describing the falls meant. they have a lot of politacal meaning and really are hard to understand sometimes so the signs don’t help all that much pero bueno. While passing through the city that falleras and falleros were parading through every street it felt like. It was cool to see all of them in full attire and this was just the beginning. From then practically every day the streets were full of them. When I passed through the Ayuntamiento that day there was a ceremony giving awards to all the fallas and roads blocked off. I also saw the municipal falla from the front finally because where I had been watching the mascletas from I could only see the back. That night was the first Castillo and we went to see it. Upon coming to Valencia everyone was telling that the pyrotechnics here are so much better but I didn’t really see it at the other fireworks I had been to here. After going to the mascletas and learning to appreciate just the sound seeing a Castillo with color was so much more astounding and I was able to appreciate it more and actually be amazed. (Jackie can contest to that lol)
Obviously it was hard to be in class the week of fallas knowing all that was going on and wanting to be out there experiencing it. Thursday the 17th was the first day that we didn’t have class so that’s when the party really started for us. I went around with Christina to see more fallas. We went to see the Castillo again, just as amazing and then to disco moviles in Russafa and had so much fun! We went hopping from tent to tent to find good music when the DJ was letting us down (sometimes Juan and Hernan could have done better) I didn’t get home until 5 am and got back at it again the next day. I went searching for a place that could fix my camera and went to see the ofrenda, where all the falleras and falleros go and give flowers to the virgin in plaza de la virgin. This was the height of these people in the streets. There was literally an endless parade of them from 3pm – 8pm. They literally filled the streets, it was amazing to see so many people in the same type of costume. It’s literally incredible. This night was Nit del Foc (night of fire in Valenciano) being the final Castillo it was the most beautiful and incredible and with the highest attendance.
As the crema was drawing nigh (the 19th) the fuller the city became. At the beginning the festive environment was enjoyable with food stand lining the streets, churros on every corner, and the art of the fallas all over the place. It was just happy and fun but by the 18th this was not the case. After the Castillo on the 18th we made our way towards gran via to go to a disco movil and meet some friends but there were literally so many people that you couldn’t move. I’m not talking we didn’t fit on the side walk. I’m talking all the roads were closed (that’s where we stood and watched the fireworks) but there was such a mass of people that we couldn’t even fit on a three lane two way street with a park in the middle of it. That’s what I’m talking about …. I still can’t wrap my mind around that. And there were cars trying to drive there too but the masses were too overpowering there was no hope of them moving. When we finally got to the disco movil there were so many people on the street we barley fit. Nonetheless, it was the one with the best music so we just stayed there. Later that day I was telling Lucia about what I had done the night before and discovered that she used to live right on that street where we were. The sad thing about the disco moviles is that they shut down at 4 because they are basically just street dances so the music is disturbing to neighbors who actually might want to sleep. After they shut we usually got churros and chilled and once we went to a salsa sala and danced and the guy also tough us some stuff there too. We would have had to pay to get in but Forest, being a champ, convinced the guy to let us in for free (or three as Juan says lol) .
Wow now for the 19th. CRAZY. SO MANY PEOPLE. I was supposed to meet Lucia in the center to go to the Mascleta together but we couldn’t even get to the meting spot because there were so many people so I ended up listening to the Mascleta from a parallel street to the Ayuntamiento. It was crazy the plaza was full and the mases were pouring onto the side streets, so much so that you couldn’t pass to get to the next street so I was completely stuck but it’s as still rad. Then I went home and ate lunch, did my hair in a fallera inspired manner and put on my panuelo and then went to Leo’s to chill with everybody and watch the crema (the burning of all the fallas). We ended up being a group of about 15 people which was crazy to try to keep everybody moving in the same direction within all the masses.
We made our first stop at the falla right behind her house and saw the falla infantil burn there (because the infantil burn an hour
before the normal ones) then we made our way through el Carmen with a speaker and dancing and singing and having a grand old time. Then we stopped at Mercado central where we watched the big falla burn. While waiting I met a kid from Horseheads NY so that was cool. Now about the crema…as time went on more people packed in
and when the fallas was fully in flames it was so hot that people tried to push back so they didn’t get burnt but the problem is that there wasn’t really room. This was a moment of chaos and panic. It was really pretty scary. Then after that we lost someone in the group and other had to go to the bathroom so we waited…. So I bought a stuffed churro and lost my retainer…. And then we made our way to plaza de Ayuntamiento which was already full so we couldn’t really see anything. A bit of the fireworks were visible and I could see the glow of the falla ablaze.
After that we waited for the crowd to disperse and continued singing on the streets with our speaker (and these random girls latched on to our group and followed us the rest of the night) and there were no more dicomoviles or petardos because loudness late at night is allowed only during fallas and technically after the crema it isn’t falls anymore. For this reason we went to Carmen but everything there was full… so I bought a candy apple and then we decided to make our way halfway across the city to go to “Jerusalem” which had really bad music but we insisted on staying. Those of us who were left (only 5) returned to Leo’s house to nap and eat breakfast. When I finally decided to leave there and return home at 12 on Sunday I passed the Torres de serrano and they were open so I went up and saw the view. There is another thing off the checklist of things to do while in Valencia.
And there you are. That was my fallas experience. I’m glad I stared early so I could enjoy everything without the masses of people. Probably one of the most fun weeks here. Being with friends every day and staying out late every night. Nothing better than that. So glad saftey was maintained thoughout all of the chaos and masses of people.