Fallas - A beginner’s guide

Explosive, colourful, and loud. Fallas is an ever-new tradition, daring and different every year. Here you can find an overview of the basic concepts to understand Valencia’s most explosive and fiery festival

The Fallas festival (also called Falles in Valencian) is a traditional festivity held every year all over the Valencia region. The biggest and most famous celebration (the one we are going to focus on here) is the one held in the city of Valencia itself.

The people of the city - organised in numerous committees - plan, design, and fundraise for a year, so that in March they can bring all of it to life. During the first three weeks of the month, Valencia is witness to an intense programme, filled with several official functions, ceremonies, flower offerings, parades, firework displays, and a final, unforgettable bonfire. The result is so grand and idiosyncratic that Falles was recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2016.

Sculptures (Fallas) found during Fallas festivity in Valencia
The bigger fallas are large in size and made up of dozens of different figures.

Even though there are many components and acts that make up the festival, there are three fundamental elements to Fallas: the fallas, the fire, and the fireworks. The word fallas, in fact, does not only indicate the festival, but also the huge sculptures that make the event so recognisable. They are made of papier-mâché and wood, usually in the shape of allegorical and fantastical scenes, and often allude to current socio-political events in a satirical tone.

These monuments (almost 800 of them) are positioned all over the city for the final days of the celebration, waiting to be burnt in breathtaking bonfires on the last day. And here is another key element of the festival, the fire. Fallas is after all a spring celebration, a homage to the old that needs to die so that the new can be reborn. Fire is renewal, rebirth, a new beginning.

Bonfire of a falla - La Cremá, Fallas Valencia
All the fallas are burnt on the last day of the festival, during the Cremà.

The last piece that completes the Fallas picture is the fireworks. All kinds of pyrotechnic shows and devices echo and thunder in the street during Fallas. From its very beginning to its very end, the festival is accompanied by the joyfulness, spectacle, and celebratory spirit of the fireworks and firecrackers. They are the bold and boisterous hubris of life.

The festival takes up a whole year of preparation and it is highly anticipated by the city at large. When March finally rolls around, Valencians know that three weeks of spectacle and loud celebrations await them. It all builds up into a crescendo of music, colour, fireworks, and fire until finally the most eventful days (from the 15th to the 19th of March) arrive. Fallas culminates on Saint Joseph’s day, the 19th of March.

Fireworks show over Torres Serrano - Fallas Valencia
Since the first few days of the festival, fireworks are a huge part of the celebration.

As the night falls on the city, almost 800 fires rise up from its squares and streets. As if spellbound, the public watches the flames rage over the gigantic bonfires, while the music plays and the sky explodes over and over again in a blinding shower of gunpowder. And so the old year is let go, while another one is welcomed.

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