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Las Fallas - The Torches

A Festival of Fire

Every year, in the city of Valencia, there is a very important festival called las Fallas (the Torches).  In Valencian, it is written Falles.  It is a celebration in honour of San José (Saint Joseph).

Events begin at the end of February with a ceremony to announce the forthcoming festival.  This official announcement is called la Crida, meaning 'the call to the festival'.  This year, 2023, it will take place on 26th. February.  From this day onwards until 19th. March, there will be events taking place.  
One of the daily events is called la Mascletà and it takes place at 2pm in the main square of Valencia - la Plaza del Ayuntamiento.   This daily afternoon activity is a spectacle of firecrackers (petardos) known as mascletàs.  The noisy spectacle begins after an announcement is made by the two 'Queens of las Fallas'.  They declare: “Senyor pirótecnic pot començar la mascletà”.  This means:  "Mr. Pyrotechnic can begin the firecracker show!"

The firecrackers are ignited every day at 2pm from the end of February / beginning of March until 19th. March.  They are extremely noisy and smoky, like gunpowder.  In fact, they are 120 decibels!  It is said that you should open your mouth whilst listening in order to preserve you eardrums!


Throughout the city of Valencia, each street (or area of streets) is represented by a group of people known as una comisión fallera.  Each group (or committee) has its own name and a club house called el casal fallero.  The members of una comisión are known as falleros.

Every year, the members of each committee elect two females to be their official representatives: one is an adult (una fallera) and one is a child (una fallera infantil).  Finally, after a vote that considers all the falleras throughout Valencia, one fallera will win the important role of adult queen of the whole festival and she will be known as la Fallera Mayor.  Another will be elected as the child queen of the whole festival and she will be known as la Fallera Mayor Infantil.   These two queens will become famous in the city and will carry out many duties together.  Their role will last for a year.  They will each have a court of twelve falleras who will be their ladies-in-waiting.   The two royal courts are called el Corte de Honor and el Corte de Honor Infantil.

Las Falleras Mayores of Valencia in 2024 are María Estela Arlandis Ferrando (Fallera Mayor) and Marina García Arribas (Fallera Mayor Infantil).  See pictures below:

Fallera mayor 2024.JPG
Fallera mayor infantil 2024.JPG

The members of each comisión spend the year fund-raising, planning and creating a monumental sculpture for their group.   The sculpture can portray well-known characters, figures of people and animals.  The sculptured structures are made from lightweight material such as paper, cardboard, soft cork, polystyrene and glue.  Each character is called un ninot, meaning 'a puppet' or 'a doll'.  

The most important dates of the festival are from around the 15th. to the 19th. March (Saint Joseph's day) - 
el día de San José.  These five days are known as la Semana Fallera or 'la semana grande'.  During these days, the ninots are positioned and stand in the streets on their decorative bases.  Each base is filled with hidden firecrackers. The whole construction (base + ninots) is a highly flammable 'torch' called una falla or un monumento fallero.

Each falla must be positioned by dawn on 16th. March.  The members of each comisión (los falleros) work very hard during the night of 15th. March and the early hours of 16th. March to position their ninots like monuments in the streets.  The important moment of positioning the monuments is called la Plantà. 

ninot 2018.jpg

There are hundreds of fallas displayed in the streets all over Valencia.  They are beautifully painted and decorated.  They are works of art!

Prior to the official positioning in the streets, the ninots are displayed in an exhibition called la Exposición del Ninot.  The exhibition takes place in el Museo de las Ciencias, a museum in the area of Valencia known as la Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències - the City of Arts and Sciences.   Visitors vote for their favourite exhibit.   On the 16th. March, the winners are announced.  There are prizes for different categories and there is one top prize. 

What is the top prize?  Answer:  It is to be chosen as el ninot indultat - the 'pardoned' one that will be saved from the fire and placed in a special museum called el Museo Fallero.  There are two categories for the top prize: one for the adults and one for the children because each comisión arranges for their child members to create un ninot too!  These are called los ninots infantiles and the children's 'pardoned' one is el ninot infantil indultat.  In the museum, you can see the saved ninots since 1934 and old posters advertising Fallas.


On the 17th. March there is a procession towards the Town Hall Square- la Plaza del Ayuntamiento where the prizes are awarded.  This is called la entrega de premios.  During this procession you will see las falleras who are representing their committees, walking towards the awards ceremony.

In the picture below, you can see some falleras wearing traditional costume - el traje tradicional valenciano.  They also wear a special sash to identify their comisión.  Their dresses are very beautiful and decorated with lace.  Las falleras wear their hair tied back in a traditional manner.


In addition to the noisy mascletàs that are set off at 2pm each day, there are also nightly firework displays throughout the festival!  The most impressive display takes place after midnight in the early hours of 19th. March and it is called la Nit del Foc - the Night of Fire.

On the final night of the festivities (the 19th. March) each 'monument' is set alight. The works of art are turned into torches of fire.  The act of burning the monuments is called la Cremà

Firefighters - los bomberos - are always involved in the event to keep the people safe as it is so dangerous! 

No wonder the festival is named Las Fallas - meaning 'the torches!'  The whole city is filled with bonfires in the streets!


Each falla is accompanied by another smaller one for the children.  These are called las fallas infantiles.  

On the night of the burning - la Cremà, the children's fallas are burnt first (commencing at 8pm).  The others are burnt at 10pm.

The main falla of the city is burnt last of all at 11pm in front of the Town Hall in la Plaza del Ayuntamiento.



Interesting Facts:
1.  Las Fallas ends on St. Joseph's Day - 19th. March - which is also Father's Day in Spain - el Día del Padre.   St. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus therefore he is considered to represent good fathers.

2.   St. Joseph was a carpenter and is known as the protector of carpenters.  There is a belief that the Fallas festival originates from the tradition of Valencian carpenters burning their unwanted pieces of wood prior to the feast day of St. Joseph.  Gradually, the custom developed so that local people would throw extra pieces of rubbish (such as rags) onto the piles of unwanted wood to be burned.  They saw that they could make amusing shapes with the collection of wood and rags and this further developed into the great, creative festival that takes place nowadays!

3.  In 2016, the festival of las Fallas received the special UNESCO status of Patrimonio Inmaterial de la Humanidad - Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


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