The Fallas of Valencia, as we know them today, is a prolonged fiesta in which the whole city participates 24 hours a day. The statues (monuments) are put up in every street, cutting the traffic and transforming the urban landscape into a cacophony of noise, colour music and atmosphere.
The fallas are really satirical monuments where the artist highlights, for all to see, some social issue worthy of criticism, always in a mocking tone and where the protagonists are usually politicians, civic figures, current issues and anything the artist or the falla Committee consider worthy of putting down. Originally, the fallas were merely carpenters’ off cuts whereas nowadays they have become artistic creations whereby the artists create enormous sculptural sets using wood and papier-mâché as the prime material, which is given life by applying different coats of paint.
There is at least one fallera committee in every neighbourhood and their meeting place is known as “el casal”. The proliferation of fallas and casals means that the streets of the city are closed to traffic for almost a fortnight, so if you are thinking of coming to see them, it is advisable to leave your car on the outskirts as otherwise you will find yourself in a gridlock, difficult to get out of.
If you take our advice and park outside the city, you need to bring comfortable footwear, as to see the most important monuments involves long walks while enjoying the hustle and bustle of the multitudes who flock to the city these days.
The fallera fiesta consists of various events and traditions, which is why it is best to visit the city at the beginning of spring to enjoy and get to know what is on offer. We would however point out the following events:
Firework displays; Pyrotechnical spectacles which take place everyday at about 00.30h on the banks of the river Turia. It is at this time you can appreciate the Valencian’s love of gunpowder and the great expertise of the explosive technicians who always try to surprise a demanding and knowledgeable public.
Mascletas. This is the event that most Valencians prefer and the least understood by visitors from outside. To get the full benefit you need to be near to where they are let off, as it is not a question of seeing it, but of hearing and feeling it. If you let yourself be carried by the noise and barrage, it is like being in a concert, with total surround explosive sound, all in a few minutes. It takes place everyday at 14.00 h in the Town Hall Square. (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)
The Burning (La Crema): The culminating moment of the fallas when all the monuments are devoured by fire, which acquires a purifying effect. On the 19th March at 00:00 h the fire brigade brings in extra fire-fighters to ensure absolute safety as there are hundreds of huge bonfires burning in the city often in streets and squares too narrow to withstand such heat.
The Offering (Ofrenda) is a procession in which the falleras (regionally dressed female representatives of the falla) file past the Virgen de los Desamparados (Lady of the Forsaken) to offer up flowers in her honour. These offerings are often spectacular. Given the large number of falleros and falleras and which increases year after year, two days are needed so that all of them can offer their bouquets of flowers. You can see them on the 17th and 18th in all the streets of Valencia as they usually make their way on foot from the casal to the Plaza de la Virgen but the best place to see them is in the centre as it s a continuous procession where you will marvel at the mixture of typical regional dress and the variety of colours and embellishments.
Visit to the Virgin: One of the events which is not often mentioned in the guidebooks is the visit to the Plaza de la Virgen from the 18th onwards when all the falleras have filed past and deposited their bunch of flowers. With these thousands of flowers, the figure of the Virgin and her mantle are built up as well as various tableaux which represent the typical brocades of the shawls and are placed at the sides of the square, which together with the larger floral offerings of the casals, makes the square a joy to the senses as it is enveloped in the aroma of multi-coloured flowers.
Fireworks: These are let off all over the city at all hours. They are purchased in authorised establishments and there is a minimum age limit. It is one the greatest pleasures for Valencians and is what creates the most atmosphere although it may not be to all visitors’ tastes as the bangers could frighten more than one.
“Water” of Valencia (Agua de Valencia): This is a cocktail based on orange juice, champagne (cava) and other spirits. It is a group drink as it is served in one litre jars or bottles.
Hot chocolate: As in many places, Valencians take advantage of their fiestas to enjoy a delicious hot chocolate in which to dunk churros, (fritters) usually in the early hours of the morning.
Buñuelos: Valencian horchaterias (ice cream parlours where they sell horchata, a juice made from tiger nuts) set up stalls in the doors of their establishments where they fry and sell these typical fallero products, something like a puffy doughnut with or without pumpkin.
Nowadays the fallas are a social event and an important tourist attraction such that they have become a festival of national stature.