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.

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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.

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Some falleras in their traditional dresses. 2012 festival
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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!

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From the 2012 festival
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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