How to Survive Explosions and Earthquakes During Las Fallas 2014

Who would have thought that a satirical cartoon built as a puppet to be burned at the stake would become a world-famous tradition? Light years ahead of other Spanish Fallas festivals, Las Fallas in Valencia is unsurpassed and a sight not to be missed…

Las Fallas dates 2014: 15th-19th March

What began as a popular feast day of San José – the patron saint of carpenters – has, over the years, become both a national and global phenomenon that attracts thousands of visitors year on year and has become the biggest festival in Valencia, Spain.

We’ve got plenty of hostels in Valencia left for the festival. With a stay you can get the low down from staff on the best street parties, meet up with fellow travellers and (maybe most importantly) save money at the same time.

The Fallas festival list of events seems endless; bullfights, concerts, parades, firework displays, street parties and special Valencia nightlife is enough to set your head spinning. So here, to guide you through Fallas in Valencia, is guest blogger Mireia Carulla…

Fallas Decorations

It is not just the Fallas festival events which make for wonderful viewing. Each Fallas committee is in charge of decorating the districts. Garlands of light, colour and vivid designs illuminate every corner of Valencia – the Ruzafa district is particularly splendid. An element of competition ensures a fantastic display with each Fallas committee vying for the ‘best decorated street’ award.

Despertà

Unable to contain their excitement until the official first day of Fallas on 15th March, locals turn to despertà; setting off mascletàs firecrackers and tro de bac to wake up entire neighbourhoods. It’s not an official celebration organised by Fallas committee members but this event has increased in popularity year on year and has become as much part of the calendar as other Fallas events.

Ninots & the Fallas Museum

Ninots dolls are made from cork, cardboard and styrofoam. They are critical representations of public figures or recent social situations, often belonging to the world of politics and months of work go into designing and building them. In February, each committee presents its best ninot to be displayed in a collective exhibition open to the public. The plantà are in charge of putting the finishing touches to these figures right up until the 15th March – the official first day of Fallas. On this day each ninot is collected and, with much whistling and brass band revelry, laid by the monument that it forms a part of in the street.

Visitors at the exhibition have the chance to vote for their favourite ninot. At the end of Las Fallas 2013, the ninot with the most votes will be displayed in the Fallas Museum and will be saved from the fate that befalls all other ninots on the March 19th: burning!

Fallas Fireworks

Fallas in Valencia feels like one long pyrotechnic party. And since gunpowder features in most of the Valencia events, you are guaranteed a spectacular display from locals who really know their stuff.

Mascletàs
The daytime displays require careful planning as each firework is set to a rhythm with loud whistles and booms making their own music. Things build to a crescendo and conclude with the terrifying terremoto, an earthquake created by hundreds of masclets (firecrackers) exploding on the ground simultaneously. The explosions last for about 6-7 minutes and start at 2pm daily from 1-19 March at Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

Fireworks Las Fallas

Nit del Foc
Popular shows which demonstrate greater creativity year on year are held between two rivers: the Puente de la Exposición (La Peineta, or the Comb according to locals) and the Puente de las Flores.

The biggest show is the Nit del Foc (the Night of Fire) and introduces the climactic day of Fallas on the 19th March.

Parades

Las Fallas parades

Fallas committee members participate in the Cabalgata del Ninot. They dress up as celebrities and act out current events with humour and satire.

The children’s version is the Cabalgata del Ninot Infantil, a little more toned down than the often provocative adult parade.

By the time the Cabalgata Folclórica Internacional (International Folk Parade) comes around, Fallas is in full swing. Folklores, costume and customs from all over the world are invited to parade through the streets in a mass of colour and music.

Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados (offering of flowers to the Virgin of the helpless) is a chance to get out on the streets of Valencia and tale in the sweet smell of flowers. Dressed in their finest, committee members present flowers and stunning floral arrangements to the image of the Virgin Mary which stands in the centre of the aptly named plaza. The event is now so popular, it is held over two days on the 17th and 18th March.

Cabalgata del Fuego (Fire Parade) is a procession of pyrotechnic wizardry held on the 19th March. With torchbearers and giant floats passing by the eerily lit streets this is a sombre reminder of the ninot soon to be consumed by the flames.

Bullfights

The bullfighting tradition is still very much alive and kicking in Valencia with fights held in the Calle Játiva bullring during Fallas festival. Read more about the bullfighting tradition.

Cremà

This is the Fallas climax. The famous monuments are lit and burn brightly across the whole city in the early hours between 19th and 20th of March. Similar to a pagan ritual, the Falleros throw anything considered to be no longer of use onto the huge and towering pyres so as to start afresh for Fallas next year.

Las Fallas burning

Fallas Parties

Each of the committees organise a number of free Verbenas street parties in each district throughout the Fallas festival. There are also special concerts held, mainly showcasing national artists and singers. Check the Fallas programme for more information or ask staff at hostels for info about free events in Valencia.

Valencia Hostels for Fallas

Looking for budget accommodation for Las Fallas? See our top three Valencia hostels for Las Fallas. Alternatively, check out our full selection of cheap hotels in Valencia, or our listings for hostels in Valencia.

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Thanks to joe calhoun, AnotherChrisSullivam, Imalel, and YasT for the images off Flickr. Please note that all images were used under Creative Commons at the time of posting. 

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