Last year I had a front row seat (or 13th floor window) for the spectacle that is the Valencian festival of Las Fallas. From the early morning fireworks in late February through the daily explosions, marching bands, stunning costumes, and mountains of flowers, to the building-sized fallas sculptures destined to become huge pillars of fire, right on through to the post-bonfire haze of smoke drifting over the city, it was a weeks-long experience never to be forgotten.
This year there’s an ocean and most of the Iberian Peninsula between me and all the excitement. It has made for a much quieter March, but I admit that I’m missing being in the middle of the whole elaborate affair.
To help me feel more connected, el Guapo took a few pictures before he left last week for a visit to the US.
Here are a couple of the sculptures under wraps, in preparation for their unveiling:
Here’s a light display with enough context that you can see how it relates to the neighborhood, and a buñuelos stall that’s making me hungry:
Not everything to do with Las Fallas is over the top, but even something on a more modest scale can be charming.
I’ve gathered into one place the links to my fallas posts from last year, so that it’s easy for you to get a sense for the different elements that make up the festival. Here’s how it works:
Neighborhoods have lighted displays that can be many stories high. (It’s a challenge to get a sense of scale from the photo–this was several stories high.)
Then there’s the noise factor, both from things exploding and things musical (as well as things exploding in a musical way–I have heard this done). Learn more about it from Before as well as The noise! and When do they sleep? Don’t miss your chance to share the experience, if only briefly, at Despertá.
A few days before the culmination of Las Fallas there’s a parade of gorgeously costumed folks bringing flowers to La Virgen de los Desamparados, our Lady of the Forsaken. You can see details in The Offering. The Procession post features this event as well.
Let’s see–we’ve got lights, costumes, soundtrack–it’s time to consider the fallas themselves, sculptures that are extraordinary in number, size, complexity, artistry and fate. There can be as many as 800 sculptures in the city, some 5 stories high, many made of dozens of individual figures, often in satirical scenes. You can see some that el Guapo captured in Born to Burn and Center Stage.
The whole festival builds toward the night of March 19th, when the giant sculptures will be lit as torches and burned to the ground. That’s not something you can capture easily in pixels, no matter how they’re arranged, but I wrote a bit about it in La Cremá.
In a very few hours, the night sky of Valencia will fill with noise and hundreds of towers of flames. Knowing we can’t conjure that experience here, we can at least enjoy a few more images, pulled from whatever sources I could lay hands on.
This year’s falla in the center of town is this:
The center stage post has some info about this one from 2014, a horned Moses:
We can call that one the “before” view. Here’s a “during” shot. The “after” gets swept into dustpans.
I grabbed this last image from the fallas 2015 facebook page. Someone more expert than me (a vastly large set of people) might be able to tell us exactly what we’re looking at. This might be the skyline while last year’s fallas were burning to the ground. It might just show the results of all the fireworks. Whatever we’re seeing, it was no doubt a grand spectacle, and a setback for air quality. Traditions can be complicated.