Sunday, March 30, 2014

Las Fallas 2014: Castillos and Nit de Foc

I mentioned in my Las Fallas History post that castillos (firework displays) are a huge part of the festivals. Like the mascletàs, each night is designed by a different pyrotechnician. Preparations for each castillo start hours before the 1:00am start time. People begin securing the spots with the best views around the Paseo de Alameda as early as 11:00pm.



The Nit de Foc (Night of Fire in Valencian) sounds like it should be the night where the structures are burned (la crema) but it is actually the eve of San Jose (St. Joseph), the saint of carpenters. This firework show is “bigger and badder” than all the rest. It starts at 1:30am and this year was done by Pirotecnica Caballer. According to the Local Police of Valencia, between 500,000 and 800,000 people turn out for the Nit de Foc. More than 4,000 kg of gunpowder is used. It takes 30 technicians 14 hours to set up everything! We were a little unlucky this year and were downwind, so the smoke covers some of the fireworks in the video below. 


I love fireworks and in my opinion, Spain has the best firework shows I have ever seen. So for me, this is one of the most exciting things of Las Fallas. This year I was lucky enough to be able to go to all the castillos! The video is a montage of all the castillos from the year.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Las Fallas 2014: La Ofrenda

Another part of Las Fallas that people look forward to is La Ofrenda. For two days starting at about 4pm and going well past midnight, thousands of falleras and falleros from all over Valencia parade through the streets in their traditional clothing accompanied by their music groups.



Each Fallera and Fallero carries an offering of a small bouquet of flowers for the Virgin Mary, the Patron of Valencia. The bouquets are thrown to people standing on the statue who carefully place the flowers to create the cloak of the Virgin. Most fallero groups also carry an enormous bouquet of flowers which they also use as an offering. These huge bouquets are placed around the Plaza de la Virgin making the whole area smell amazing.






The offering originally began as a true religious procession, but has now morphed into a chance to exhibit all the falleras and falleros from Valencia. For me, it is the perfect opportunity to admire all the beautiful dresses!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Las Fallas 2014: La Plantà

One of the most interesting events during Las Fallas is La Plantà. Throughout the week leading up to Fallas the parts of the ninots start to arrive on big trucks all wrapped up in plastic. In theory, the Plantà is supposed to take place the night of March 15th, but a lot of the work is done ahead of time.


While not technically a ninot, it is still interesting to see how the statue of the Virgin is put together
The very beginning stages

It is really fun to see how the structures come together. Giant cranes are used for the biggest ninots. Each one is like a giant puzzle and fits together seamlessly. The night of the 15th is when you can see the final details being up on. Like finishing touches on the painting, or small adornments and signs to explain the ninot.



Since Las Fallas is a huge competition, the ninots which are not finished by the morning of the 16th are disqualified and can’t be saved from la cremà on the final night of Las Fallas.




Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Las Fallas 2014: Mascletà

The first day of March if you find yourself walking around in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento you may wonder why there are so many people milling about. Las Fallas is 15 days away, what’s the big deal?

This was just day one. Imagine how many people there are on day 19!
Each color firecracker has a different amount of gunpowder. The designer knows exactly when to light each one.
Well, that would be the Mascleta. Which is one of the most exciting parts of Las Fallas. I mentioned before that this festival is a celebration of noise and fire. There is no better example of that than the Mascleta. Starting on the first of March and going until the 19th (the last day of Fallas) people start trying to get the best spot in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento starting as early as 11:00 am. The whole plaza packed and even back as far as the estacion del norte is wall to wall people.


The Falleras watch from the Ayuntamiento building
When the clock chimes at 2:00 pm, the Fallera Mayor of Valencia says: “Senyor pirotècnic, pot començar la mascletà!” (Mr. Pyrotechnic, you may commence the Mascleta!) Then…


The loudest firecrackers you have ever heard in your life begin. Unlike Valencia’s midnight Castillo which is a beautiful firework display. The Mascleta is a massive celebration of sound and light. Even at 2pm you can see colorful fireworks, and smoke rising up from the plaza. The last few minutes of the mascleta are known as “The Earthquake” because the ground below you literally is shaking from the noise. The sound reaches up to 120 decibels which is just above the average human pain threshold (source). The noise from the display can be heard all over the city.

Once the show is over people rush to the center of the plaza to congratulate the designer of the show. He is often times carried out on the shoulders of the people. Each day there is a different designer of the Mascleta and whichever display is deemed the best has the honor of designing the final mascleta on the 19th of March.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Las Fallas 2014: History

Las Fallas is a festival full of noise and fire and is Valencia’s most famous. It’s celebrated in early March every year to honor Saint Joseph the patron saint of carpenters. Many, many years ago this festival was nothing special. Not even a festival really. It is said that the carpenters would take all their unusable scraps and old tools from their shops and burn them in the streets out front. Ever since then, Las Fallas has come to represent change from old to new and also Winter to Spring.

From the 2012 festival
The structures have come a long way from old wood scraps! Now they are up to 30 meters (100 feet) tall! The materials include: paper, wood, wax, paper mache, Styrofoam and anything else that they can think of as long as it is flammable. Each neighborhood in Valencia has a Casal Faller which is the group in charge of raising the money, electing their falleras and constructing the ninot (the Valencian word for puppet or doll). The structures are made according to the theme of the year which is usually some satirical jab at a famous political figure.

Some falleras in their traditional dresses. 2012 festival
From the 2012 festival
Las Fallas officially begins on March 15, but the celebration starts a lot earlier. This year, it began on the evening of February 23 at the Torres de Serrano. These towers used to be the only way in to Valencia so it is pretty symbolic that this festival is started there. During this celebration all the falleras from the different parts of the Comunidad Valenciana are introduced. There is music, acrobats, light shows, history presentations and of course….fireworks! At the end of the presentation the mayor of Valencia and the fallera mayor of Valencia give a speech and announce the beginning of the festival.

Here is a short video of the night:

On March 15th and 16th the structures are finished in the streets, if they are not fully constructed by the 16th they will be disqualified. Throughout the festival there are mascletas (firecracker displays), castillos (firework displays), parades and lots of music and food!

From the 2012 festival
From the 2012 festival
On the night of the 19th the structures are all set on fire! Only the structure that is voted the best is not burned and becomes part of the Fallas Museum