A Burning Ring of Fire: Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain

1 top Las Fallas, Valencia 3-2012

🔥I Fell Into A Burning Ring of Fire🔥
Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain

Ear-splitting explosions, blazing bonfires, enormous burning effigies and packs of feral children playing with matches. Nope, it’s not a war zone or the latest post-apocalyptic blockbuster. Welcome to Las Fallas; Valencia’s premiere party and one of the biggest, craziest festivals in all of Spain (and let’s face it, that says a lot).

Over the last six years living in Spain, I’ve overcome 3 Carnavals in Cadiz and the Canary Islands (Santa Cruz & Las Palmas), survived 3 Orgullos living in the center of Chueca in Madrid, and lived to tell the tale of countless pueblo festivals – from Celtic musicians camping in the beaches of Ortigueira to rowdy La Ramas in Agaete.

Las Fallas Valencia  2013.jpg

Spain likes a good party (and what can I say, so do I) but celebrating Las Fallas is truly something extraordinary. Picture a city where thousands of people spend thousands of hours and thousands of euros to build extravagant and elaborate floats… only to blow them all up in a single night.

Las Fallas is held annually from the
15th to 19th of March.
The biggest and most spectacular celebrations
happen on the final evening.

Come On Baby, Light Your Fire:
W
hen to Book Your Trip

Yesterday. The city fills to the brim celebrating Las Fallas with Spanish revellers and international tourists alike, so book your accommodation right away if you haven’t done so already.

Many (most?) hotels, hostels and Airbnb’s have minimum 4 or 5 night stays during the event, and they book up fast. If spontaneity leaves you waiting till the last minute with not a sofa in sight, I assure you that you won’t be the first, the last or the only free spirit using the beach as your (rather chilly) boudoir.

If you’re new to AirBnb, feel free to use my referral link and receive a €25 travel credit for your first stay!

Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain 3-2012 WM.jpg

Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight:
What to Expect at Las Fallas

Days at Las Fallas are long and LOUD. Firecrackers start early in the morning (8:00am), which under normal circumstances would be considered pretty profane in sleepy Spain. The pop and bang is ‘delightfully’ accompanied by brass marching bands who parade down the streets of the city center – a not so gentle wake up call known as La Despertà.

As a heavy sleeper with a tendency to stay up late and snooze through everything, I can honestly say I was unaffected. Most would disagree. If you sleep any less solidly than a hibernating bear, invest in some earplugs and strong café.

2 Las Fallas, Valencia3 3-2012 widescreen

Throughout the day, there’s no shortage of things to see, eat, and make your ears ring. Processions of falleras in the ornate, silk gowns traditional of the region make their way through the city like ladies of a long-forgotten court. Street stalls and chiringuitos frying up churros, buñuelos and salchichas fill the air with smells of smoke and sustenance to get you through the long days, and crowds spill out of every overflowing bar and terrace serving cold cañas and fresh paella, Valencia’s specialty.

Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain 3-2012 (55)

Every afternoon at 14:00, the fireworks and firecrackers of the daily mascletà ring out from Plaza Ayuntamiento, the city’s main square.

Fireworks in the middle of the day you ask… but why?!

Why not!

At Las Fallas, anything that goes BOOM, goes.

Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain 3-2012 wm2.jpg

As the sun sets and the sky dims, the festivities do not. Fireworks pop & crack each evening above the old riverbed, growing bigger and more spectacular with each passing day. Glittering lights sparkle all over the city, their florescent beams reflecting in the heavy smoke of the street stalls and firecrackers.

Turning into any given plaza may lead you toward another incredible ninot, a spontaneous dance party, a court of falleras… or all three. The music, dancing, fireworks and festivities grow increasingly later and louder as each day passes, until the culmination of la cremà or the La Nit de Foc on the final night.

Ninot Las Fallas, Valencia2 3-2012

Great Balls of Fire:
La Cremà – Nit de Foc
(Monday, 19th March, 2018)

And it all builds up to this – the final night lit up with the biggest light show yet.

This year, La Cremà will take place on a Monday night, meaning that many merrymakers may plan to leave early to make it back for work on Monday.

Don’t be that guy.

If you have to lie, steal, cheat or beg a couple of days off of work, I promise it will be worth it. While the entire festival is unique and enjoyable, it is La Nit de Foc (The Fire Nightwhich you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Ninot Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain 3-2012 (54)

I can vividly recall the first falla I watched go up in flames and then burn down in a blaze of glory. It was a ninot infantil, and one of the earliest to spark that night. It was such a strange and surreal sight that the memory has happily stayed with me ever since.

The falla was draped with cords and men and children from the Casal Faller were dousing it in liquid from 1.5-liter water bottles. The young fallera of that particular barrio approached in her elegant silk gown, looking nothing short of a young Spanish princess.

It didn’t take long to realize that the cords were fireworks and the liquid was gasoline. The little princess lit the fuse and BANG the fireworks erupted in a cacophony of lights and colors, the paper-mâiché falla smoldered and burnt to a crisp before our eyes. To see this once is spectacular. Now picture seeing it dozens and dozens of times.

Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain 3-2012 (52)

The festivities begin with The Parade of Fire at 19:00 – La Cavalcada del Foc. At around 22:00, the first fallas infantiles – smaller and somewhat less elaborate – are burnt. From this point on, the party and the explosions are nonstop.

The smoke, sound and celebrations erupt around every corner, essentially a pyromaniacs dream dance party. At midnight, the ceremonious burning of the grand fallas begins, heating the entire city with fire and flames. The only ninot to be saved from the wreckage is the ninot indultat (the pardoned puppet), who won the most votes and will be protected along with past winners from the ninot netherworld in the city’s Museo Fallero (Ninot Museum).

Ninot Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain 3-2012 (58)

The History Behind the
Explosions and Effigies

The evolution of the fallas is said to have begun as early as the Middle Ages, stemming from pagan celebrations of the spring equinox. During the autumn and winter months, carpenters used planks or chunks of wood (parots) to place their candles or oil lamps while working on dark evenings. As days became longer and candlelight was no longer necessary during working hours, they’d celebrate the coming of spring by setting the planks alight.

Overtime, the tradition grew to include children going door to door asking for rags to dress the planks up like puppets (ninots). It wasn’t until much later that Saint Joseph – the Patron Saint of carpenters – became a part of the festival, merging the age-old tradition with the Catholic faith.

Today, each of Valencia’s neighborhoods has a committee (Casal Faller) which annually organizes, fundraises and constructs their own ninot (Valencian for puppet) or fallas – the enormous floats that will soon light up before your very eyes.

Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain 3-2012 (53)

The floats are massive – they can reach over 25 meters tall – and are skillfully designed and constructed by prominent artists.  They are almost always ironic or satirical (and often lewd) representations of politicians and well-known celebrities, both Spanish and international. You can guess which Cheeto King celeb-oitician  was a common theme throughout last year’s festivities and will probably be prominent again this year.

What to Expect… and a Warning

I loved Las Fallas, and if the stars once again align allowing me to prance between smoldering ninots over firecracker debris, dodging teens tossing pyrotechnics with a lukewarm can of Estrella Damm in my hand, I’m there.

But it might not be for everyone. It’s loud in a way that’s impossible to explain, not exactly earsplitting but constant and thunderous, so much so that pregnant women are not permitted at the events for health reasons. People have been injured (duh) and if you haven’t caught on quite yet, there is a lot (and I mean, a lot) of fire.

For the full schedule of events, visit the official Las Fallas website.

What’s your favorite part of Las Fallas?

I’d love to hear about your Las Fallas experience! Did you love the lunacy, or crave some quiet? Let me know about it in the comments below 👇! And don’t forget to follow me for more on teaching English in Spain 📚 and adventures ✈ in the Canary Islands, Spain and the world 🌍!

Love & Light, Erica

© Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original

 FALLAS PINTERES

 

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45 Comments Add yours

  1. Mr Mike says:

    Festivals are always so much fun especially when the locals are into it. I can’t believe they spend all that time building their floats just to burn them though. Must be something really cool to watch a mix of a Thanksgiving Parade and a bonfire for the las falls, the burning ring of fire!

    Like

  2. ah Las Fallas, I went a few years ago and i had the time of my life! I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I first got there and did the night trip from Madrid, but it was SO awesome!!

    Like

  3. Dom says:

    I’ve not been to Las Fallas – but it looks like fun. A lot more fun than the day in Valencia we had as part of a Med cruise last year. lol Need to look into trying to make this happen. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  4. Eric Gamble says:

    There is no doubt that Spain loves to party! I have not even heard of Las Fallas before but Valencia is one of the few sections of Spain that I have yet to visit. So I need to remedy this soon. In New Orleans, we love a crazy insane festival with Food, Music, & Floats (Mardi Gras) but I cant imagine spending all that time & money on such beautiful pieces of art just to explode them! Awesome!
    Love the pic of the the Falleras too in their traditional attire. Classic

    Like

  5. dorothyadele says:

    It sounds like an explosive way to celebrate the spring equinox. They must know how to party, and I can’t believe that you slept through the noise.

    Like

  6. Martina Hzb says:

    This festival looks amazing! So cool! I wish I could go there one da ytoo. Valancia must be an amazing city too – thanks for sharing this with us 🙂

    Like

  7. Denny George says:

    That sounds like an incredible party. I really enjoyed the detailed narration you provided. It was almost as if I was present there with you.

    Like

  8. Ethel says:

    Woow, sounds like crazy adventure – flames, explosions and sleeping at beach! Lucky, that Spanish nights are warm at least!

    Like

  9. Sylvia says:

    Very interesting article. I only know Spain from the religious festivals. I didn’t know they had such crazy festivals.

    Like

  10. Lucy says:

    This festival looks so much fun! I would like to go to Valencia to experience this and enjoy the fire, fireworks, food and the giant floats.Maybe next year!

    Like

  11. didnt know Spain has such crazy parties…need to plan a trip soon

    Like

  12. Wow didnt know Spain had such crazy parties!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Spain is BUILT from crazy parties 🙂

      Like

  13. I thought you had eaten something spicy 😂 I would love to visit a Spanish festival like this, great post

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      HAHA, your comment made me laugh at loud! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  14. ericahargreave says:

    A festival that is bound to be full of good stories.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      What happens at Fallas stays at Fallas! Haha 🙂

      Like

  15. katherinefenech2017 says:

    Hahahaha, I sometimes sleep like a hibernating bear, but not all the time. The person in the bunk above me snored all night at my hostel last night and I could hardly sleep so I think I”ll be needing earplugs for those firecrackers 😉

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Haha, I think sleeping in hostels for so many years in my early 20s trained me to sleep impenetrably! For everyone else, earplugs 😉

      Like

  16. This look like so much fun! I have not heard of this festival before. Do people actually get any sleep? Onto my bucket list it goes:)

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Haha, earplugs and black out curtains are definitely your friend at a festival like this!

      Like

  17. Hi Erica. I love your writing style, i found myself there at the festival with you giggling inbetween, parties like that in Spain who would have thought. Looks like a lot of fun but I can appreciate the warning that it is not for everyone!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks so much Liza, that means a lot! Spain has so many crazy festivals like this, I bet you’d love it!

      Like

  18. Followingtherivera says:

    I haven’t yet been to Las Fallas, though I have been to Valencia many times before. I love the sound of the loud fireworks display, though I know it won’t be for everyone! Looks like a lot of fun!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      I’ve only ever been to Valencia during Fallas… I’ve got to get back and see the city sans the explosions!

      Like

  19. Claire Gamble says:

    This sounds like an amazing festival!!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      One of the biggest, craziest I’ve ever experienced!

      Like

  20. This looks like so much fun!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It is! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Whitney Dawn says:

    This looks awesome!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It is 🙂 I hope you make it someday!

      Like

  22. Renata Green says:

    Although this does not sound like something I’d enjoy very much, I actually enjoyed reading about it: It’s an interesting post and I like you’re style of writing.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It’s definitely not for everyone 🙂 ! I loved it, but I can definitely see how others would not!

      Like

  23. wewhoroamns says:

    This sounds like it would be insane for most unfamiliar with these types of events. I’ve definitely never been to a party like this, but raves and desert festivals (think Burning Man) have some similar traits! Without actually being there it’s truly hard to imagine burning structures and constant fireworks at this volume!

    We gear towards nature, but knowing these kinds of parties are going on, we’d be silly to not partake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I’ve been wanting to go to Burning Man for years! Must be such an incredible experience. It’s funny, in general I don’t love being around huge, noisy crowds, but when it comes to festivals full of positive energy I absolutely thrive, especialy when it’s something so ingrained in the culture.

      Like

  24. Sounds like a lot of fun! I’ve always wanted to visit Spain, don’t even know why. The people just seem so happy and fun all the time. I’m sure at the festival they show this side of them. The day I plan a trip there, I’ll consider booking around a time of a festival.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      I first visited Spain for a few months in 2009 and was HOOKED. So much though that it’s been my homebase since 2011! Be careful once you get here, you may never want to leave 😉

      Like

  25. Mi Gustaaa! Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  26. Sam Sparrow says:

    I’ve wanted to see Las Fallas for such a long time, it seems like such a party! Even if I find the puppets a little scary haha! It’s fun to think it dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It’s such a blast, I hope you make it someday! It happens every year from March 15-19, so mark it in your calendar and make it happen! 🙂

      Like

  27. Maggie [Totally Teen Travel] says:

    Prefiero la tranquilidad, lo siento! ❤️

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Haha, to each there own! Las Fallas is DEFINITELY not for everyone!

      Like

  28. Raghav says:

    I have faint memories of Valencia from decades ago when I accompanied my father on a business trip. Las Fallas brings a more cultural and colourful outlook to the region which makes it all more attractive. Festivals like this not only carry on the ancient traditions but work towards bringing people together and that is always great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I definitely agree! I think attending local festivals is such a great way to get to know about the people of any given culture, and I often plan my travels around attending festivals!

      Like

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