Today is the biggest day of Las Fallas celebrations, and it’s been raining hard. Burning everything down under these conditions will be challenging, but the folks in charge of the conflagration are bound to have plans in place.
I’ll have more pictures for you in the next few days, but in the meantime, I’ve come up with an organizational framework to help me corral all the elements of Las Fallas. We’ve got sounds, smells, sights, lights, and heat. Ready?
Las Fallas includes sounds of many kinds. There’s the despertá (have a quick listen), the himno that I shared earlier, plus a song that we keep hearing, but don’t know the name of. El Guapo can whistle it, so we need to corner somebody and inquire. There’s the mascletá that happens every day at 2 pm (which you can listen to here in a way that doesn’t threaten your eardrums), the small explosions of firecrackers providing lots of nervous-wreck potential (some about that here), the brass bands, the drum corps (I felt for the woman engulfed by the group as they surged up onto the sidewalk) and finally, the crackling of the bonfire flames.
The aroma of deep-frying is not unique to Las Fallas, but combine it with the all-pervasive smell of gunpowder plus the acrid odor of melting styrofoam, and then add overtones of paella, and I think we’ve got something original going on.
So much to see, so hard to make our way through the crowds to be able to see it! But with hundreds of fallas, and a good percentage of the city’s inhabitants in period costume, there’s a lot to see even outside the most congested areas. The fallas are central, of course (an upcoming post will showcase them), but the parades of falleras and falleros, the flower offerings–it’s a lot to take in. We went around to the back of the cathedral yesterday, and were able to watch falleras and falleros of all ages progress toward their opportunity to offer their flower tributes. The small bouquets are incorporated into the cape of the huge statue of the Virgin that sits in front of the Basilica and the cathedral.
Many streets in the city have lighted designs strung over the roadway between the buildings, often including the name of the Casal Faller (Fallas clubhouse) of the neighborhood. A few streets have huge, elaborate structures covered in lights, and during the nights of the festival there are shows that sync the lights to music. There are large-scale fireworks displays in the Turia garden, but that’s not the only place things are exploding in the sky. We had a nice show a few blocks from us last night.
There are barriers around the fallas sculptures to keep people at a distance while the whole thing burns down, but as the fire begins to take hold, people retreat on their own–the waves of heat coming off the bonfire push everything back, and back again. This year, though, I’m sure there will be a lot of people happy to warm their hands. It’s been unseasonably cold, and tourists showing up for what they assumed would be a nice dose of sunny Spain have had a very chilly time of it.
The falla infantil burns at around 10 pm (the fact that this is considered early enough for the youngest kids to see it tells you a certain amount about typical family schedules in Spain). Even the small fallas put out a great deal of heat when they really get going.
Tune in for a lot more pictures once the smoke clears and we get a night’s sleep unaccompanied by explosions or raucous dance music. We’re hoping it will be soon.
[Images: some of each from Yours Truly and El Guapo]