Las Fallas - The Torches
A Festival of Fire
Every year, in 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), the patron saint of Valencia.
The festival runs from the 15 to the 19 March (Saint Joseph's day) - el día de San José. These five days are also known as La Semana Fallera.
Each area of the city of Valencia has its own special group of people known as un casal faller. Each group spends the whole year secretly creating wax statues called ninots. The ninots are placed on a decorative base - made from wood, cardboard and wax. The whole construction (base + ninot) is a highly flammable 'torch' called una falla.
Each ninot is revealed at the beginning of February when it is placed in the Ninot Museum for the public to view. The exhibition lasts until 15 March when they are removed from the museum and positioned like monuments in the streets. This important moment of positioning the ninots on their accompanying base is called la plantá.
There are hundreds of fallas displayed in the streets all over Valencia, and some of them are as tall as multi-storey buildings! They are beautifully painted and decorated. They are works of art!
During the five days of Las Fallas, the Valencian people celebrate continually from morning until night. There are parties, fireworks known as mascletás, processions and music. Traditional costumes are worn.
The fireworks called mascletás are ignited during the day, every day from 1st. to 19th. March. They are extremely noisy, sounding like gunfire.
Their noise is intended to be a form of rhythm, like music.
On the last night of the festivities (the 19 March) the people set fire to the 'monuments'. They are turned into torches of fire. This night is called La Nit del Foc, meaning 'The Night of Fire.' The act of burning the monuments is called la cremá.
Firefighters - los bomberos - are always involved in the event to keep the people safe as it is very dangerous!
No wonder the festival is named Las Fallas - meaning 'the torches!' The whole city is filled with gigantic bonfires in the streets!
Each falla is even accompanied by another smaller one for the children.
These are called fallas infantiles.
Why are the ninots kept hidden during their creation?
Answer: During the ninot exhibition there is a competition, so it is important for ideas to be original and not to be copied! The visitors to the exhibition vote which ninot is the best. The winner is preserved in the museum whilst all the others are burned as part of the festival.
This special museum is called el Museo Fallero. The collection of winning and therefore 'saved' ninots is called los ninots indultats. This actually means 'pardoned ninots.'
The exhibition during which the competition takes place is called la Exposición del Ninot. In this museum, there is also a display of the posters that, each year, have advertised the event.
The museum is rather like a Valencian version of Madame Tussauds!
1. St. Joseph's Day - 19 March - is also Father's Day in Spain.
St. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus therefore he is considered to represent good fathers.
2. St. Joseph was a carpenter. There is a belief that the Fallas festival originates from the tradition of workers burning their unwanted pieces of wood prior to the feast day of St. Joseph who is the protector of carpenters.