What is Valencia’s Las Fallas festival?
Las Fallas is Valencia’s most important festival. The main festival is held in Valencia city, although there are smaller fallas celebrations throughout the region. During this crazy fiery festival, huge elaborate paper mâché sculptures called fallas are set up across the city. On the last night, they are ceremoniously burned during the Nit de la Cremà during a crazy firey display.
In the days leading up to the burning, there are numerous firework displays, parades, and cultural events, which are all worth visiting.
It is thought that the tradition was started by the city’s carpenters who would celebrate the arrival of spring by burning the pieces of wood that held up their lights during winter. Gradually they began adding other scraps of wood and rags to the bonfires so that they somewhat resembled human figures, animals or other characters.
This has evolved so much so that today the fallas can represent anything from satirical scenes featuring Spanish politicians to scenes from popular stories and legends. Prizes are awarded for the best ones.
What is different about the festival this year?
Usually Las Fallas is held in March, with the last night being on March 19th, but, because of the pandemic, this year’s event was postponed until September. This will be the first time that Valencia has celebrated Las Fallas since 2019. This month a slightly shortened version of the festival will be held from September 1st to the 5th.
All the main events will still be taking place however, including the burning on the night of the 5th. If you plan on visiting this year, arrive a day or two earlier so that you can go around and marvel at all the fallas before they’re destroyed.
What can I expect to see?
Besides the fallas themselves, one of the most important events to watch is when groups of falleros dressed in traditional costume parade through the city streets to offer flowers to a giant statue of La Virgin – Our Lady of the Forsaken – in front of the Cathedral. Each bunch of flowers is added to her dress until her costume is made up of fresh flowers.
The Mascletà is another event that shouldn’t be missed. Taking place at 2pm during each day of the festival, it’s a deafening display of hundreds of firecrackers, which almost seems to shake the city. Be aware, it’s more about the noise and the atmosphere than being able to see them, as there are typically large crowds and they don’t produce colours, only white smoke.
- Don’t expect to get much sleep if you visit Valencia in the next few days, as loud firecrackers and fireworks are let off at any time of the day or night.
- When you’ve seen as many fallas as possible, choose your favourite to watch being burned, as all of them are set fire to at the same time. This year, the burning of the children’s fallas will take place at 8pm on September 5th, followed by the burning of the larger fallas at 10pm. The winning falla will then be burnt at 10.30pm and the large falla in front of the town hall (ayuntamiento) at 11pm. To avoid crowds, acess to this square will be restricted, so arrive early if you plan on watching this one.
- Make sure to try some of the traditional foods associated with Las Fallas. These include buñuelos de calabaza (pumpkin fritters) dipped in hot chocolate and churros. While in Valencia you should also sample some orxata or horchata – a sweet milk-like drink made from tiger nuts.
- Storms and heavy rain have been forecast in Valencia for the next couple of days, but the weather should return to dry and sunny conditions by the weekend and in time for the main falla events.
- It’s difficult to park during Las Fallas and your car may get damaged, but parking will be free in all of the city’s blue zone during the festival.
To learn more about Las Fallas while you’re there, visit the Museo Fallero.
Words you need to learn when visiting Las Fallas:
Falleros are the people who make the falla sculptures. During the festival, they will dress up in traditional Valencian costumes made from Valencian silk and lace.
Falleras are the females who make the falla sculptures. Each year one fallera is chosen to represent each group of falleros. It is she who is in charge of lighting her group’s falla when the time comes. There is also a fallera mayor and a fallera mayor infantil – an older girl and a younger girl who are chosen for the whole city. They act like the festival queen and princess.
Ninots are the individual character sculptures within the each falla. There can be up around 10 in each big scene. Each year, the locals vote for their favourite ninot which will be saved from the flames. This ninot is called the Ninot Idultat, and rather than being burnt along the rest of its falla, will be preserved in the Fallero Museum.
The mascletà is the huge firecracker display which takes place at 2pm every day during the festival.
The offering of the flowers to the Virgin by the groups of falleros in traditional costumes.
Cremà means burning, and the Nit de la Cremà or Night of the Burning takes place on the last day of the festival.