When you think of a festival, images of Ferris wheels and candy floss flash before your eyes. But not 2-storey tall puppets and dolls roaming the streets, while young men with axes fill them with fireworks as huge crowds chant for their destruction. This is called “Las Fallas”, which literally translates to “the fires” in Valencian (a Spanish dialect).
Although this sounds outrageously ridiculous, this is how the Spanish and millions of travellers alike, celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. The 5-day festival draws a huge crowd, taking the small city’s population from 1 million to 3 million. That’s a whole-lot-of people that secretly possess pyrotechnic urges.
Kicking off annually, this week-long festival is an unforgettable spectacle, as Valencia goes into over-drive with fire-cracker and firework shows, extravagant parades, crazy bull-fights, live music, endless food stands of chorizo and churros (typical Spanish foods that MUST be tried) and paella-making contests.
This wild festival of smoke, flames and fireworks is centred around the creation and destruction of ninots (“puppets” or “dolls”). These extremely lifelike ninots are massive cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster statues. During the fiesta, they act as a depiction of mockery and humour as they impersonate recognized scenes of celebrities and re-create current events poking-fun at politicians and world figures.
But these ninots aren’t all fun and games, most are several stories tall and cost local companies and organizations around $75,000 to construct, and take almost a full year to put together – only to be blown-up and set alight just a week after creation.
Two Events Not To Be Missed
- La Plantà (the rising): The day Las Fallas begins, the ninots are placed at 350 key intersections and parks around the city with the aid of cranes on the day. It is a spectacle not to be missed!
- La Cremá (the burning): At midnight on the final day of the festival, the closing act takes place as the destruction of the puppets begins. Men with axes cut holes in the ninots, filling them with firecrackers. A massive bonfire is then built, the streetlights are dimmed, and the ninots are thrown into the blaze.
- Each year, the festival goers vote for their favourite ninot, and it is thus saved from destruction. This ninot is called the “ninot indultat” (the pardoned puppet) and can be viewed at the local Museum of the Ninot along with others from past years.
- Accommodation during Las Fallas can be very expensive and tends to book out early. Sort your accommodation out early to avoid disappointment.
- For the world’s coolest Spain tour check out the Spanish Bar-Mada.
Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain
When: March 15th – March 19th
Where: Valencia, Spain
What: Las Fallas Fiesta
Fallas Festival (Valencia-Spain)