This past Monday it was Father’s Day in Spain, which meant no school. This also meant that I could take a 2-hour trip to Valencia for the last day of its traditional Fallas festival. The Fallas or Falles refers to the tradition of burning monuments of different sizes in the streets at night in commemoration of Saint Joseph. During the day, spectators are able to appreciate these monuments that take several months to make. There, people can eat food, dance, buy souvenirs and watch fireworks. The last day of Fallas is generally a jammed packed day with so much to see and do. So, I think it’s best to break down the events by chronological order.
La Despertá or The Wake up Call
You may have guessed it, La Despertá happens in the morning. When I had arrived at about 11am people were already roaming around, taking pictures of all the monuments that filled the streets. I made it just in time to see the Fallers; men, women and children dressed in traditional Valencian clothing. These people are selectively chosen to present themselves as part of the Valencian Fallas Court. The women in particular go through an extensive competition to be selected and the dresses they wear can cost them thousands of euros. Behind the Fallers are the brass bands that march down the streets with them. You could find many of these groups marching in different parts of the city.
2. La Mascleta
At 2pm the Mascleta begins. Everyday during the festival there is a huge fireworks display that happens in front of city hall. People from all directions gather together to see the show. And if you want to get up close and personal to the fireworks you have to get there at least 1-2 hours before. Luckily I found a spot not too far from city hall, but close enough to experience the vibrations of the fireworks going off in the air. I got to the fireworks display location at about 1pm, which wasn’t too bad because there was a group of performers that had the crowd dancing as they played their drums.
3. La Ofrenda de Flores (Flower Offering)
So after the Mascleta I went to see what thousands of tourists fly in to see…the Virgin Mary! This representation of Mary isn’t like any I’ve seen before. Located behind the Cathedral of Valencia stands a very tall monument of Virgin Mary made of wood. The wood is shaped and used to fit claveles (carnation plant) into, ultimately creating a gown. This year the color was red and the Fallers I talked about earlier would bring the Virgen Mary flowers as an offering.
4. Cavalcade de Foc (The fire Parade)
At 7pm begins the fire parade in which men dressed as devils or demons scurry down the streets holding unique torches. Floats decorated in dark colors and music enticed fear among the people watching. I also remember there being a lot of smoke and a strong smell of gun powder which added to the theme and the parade performances.
5. La Crema
The grand final and most viewed event of the Fallas Festival is La Crema. At 10pm begins the burning of the ninots. These are the rather smaller monuments that typically follow a theme. The ones during the day were of toys, political figures, and a Spanish family. These works of art are meant to catch people’s attention.
After the ninots are burned at 10pm. Myself and the rest of Valencia wait until 12am for the burning of the Fallas Majores (the big monuments). These were definitely exciting to see because some stood as tall as a four story building. The colors and themes used were extraordinary. And the stories they each told were so unique. Being there made it hard for me to understand why all these artists would create such beautiful art for months just to burn it at the end.
Then at about 1:30am everyone runs back to city hall where the big monument stands. This year it was the image of two female figures standing on top of four giant faces while holding what looked like earth. This monument was probably the tallest of all Valencia and it had so many bright colors. I remember waiting for it to catch on fire. Before it did, all the lights of the area were turned off and people anxiously awaited for the fireworks to go off. It was truly an amazing sight.
People we crowded on the streets, others were waiting on there balconies. Soon after the final show began. Fire works went off and 5 mins after the city hall monument caught on fire. When it was completely burned, the people cheered and went back to their homes, hotel rooms, and vehicles. I got on the bus and drove back home to Alicante. I arrived at about 5am it was literally the longest day of my life but well worth it.
P.s Although there was a lot of fire and fireworks that day, the firefighters of Valencia knew what they were doing in order to keep everyone safe.