After almost a year of preparations and two weeks various celebrations, Valencia overflows with gaiety, energy and fireworks during the celebration of its Major Festival: the Fallas.. This regional capital by the Mediterranean coast near the mouth of the river Turia celebrates in tremendous style, one of the best known and emblematic festivals of Spain, as well known as the San Fermin festival in Pamplona.
Fallas portray scathing critical and often humorous expressions of important events, both nationally and internationally.
|The Fallas, from 13th to 19th of March, are creations of paper mache, wood and wax, which the Valencians, divided into different groups according to quarters or barrios and even streets, build in the streets and burn on the night of the feast of St. Joseph. These figures, called "ninots" by the Valencians, allude to events and personalities of the day. The ninots, half satirical, half symbolical, are created in a style somewhere between comic strips and Walt Disney cartoons. The figures, which represents a whole year's work for hundreds of people, are burnt on the night of March 19th in towering flames, and each bonfire is a temple devoted to this colossal festival of fire.|
From that time he has used fire to overcome the darkness of the night, to cook food, to defend himself from enemies, and even as a means of communication. There are many human rituals in which the principal protagonist is fire. In Spain, on the night of St. Joseph, St. John and St. Anthony, honor is rendered to those saints by burning of huge bonfires. For one week the Valencians and their visitors are both spectators and participants in a spectacle which goes beyond the walls of the great theater which this city becomes. The tourist influx and the international projection of the Fallas grows every year. When man discovered fire he stood marveling before such a strange phenomenon.
On the origin of the Valencian Fallas there are various theories which have tried to place these popular festival in time. This is not a simple matter as there is hardly any documentary evidence. The closest theories to reality, however, are: Vicente Salvador's theory, that of Sol and the theory of the "Ninot" in the middle of Lent.
The first two agree that the celebration of the Fallas began in the Middle Ages. Vicente Salvador considers that the origin of the Fallas could have happened at the time of the medieval guilds. On
the night of St. Joseph the carpenters' guild used to light a bonfire in honor of their saint. In it, they burnt the standing pole on which they had kept their lamp during the winter - the estai - and the sweepings from the workshop. Which the passage of time, however, matting and various old pieces of junk were added. The custom of burning an effigy in the blaze is somewhat subsequent. The feuds
Between the different workshops provoked the creation of grotesque figures which represented rivals, for the purpose of making everyone laugh at them. The effigies were thrown onto the fire together with the old pieces of junk.
theory, that of Sol, suggest that the actual tradition of lighting bonfires
in honor of the saints arose from pagan customs which
Christianity made its own, as it was too difficult to
prohibit or condemn them, since they were already
ceremonies of great popularity. The theory of the Ninot
in the middle of Lent, the third, relates that during the
17th century, effigies tied to a stick were burnt in the
market place. It would seem that the first of these represented Mahomet.
This act brought together a large number of townsfolk who
celebrated the burning.
The first written testimonies of the Valencian Fallas date from the middle of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. By this time, the protagonist of the Falla festival were the fire and the effigies, as well as the entire town formed part this splendid spectacle. This aspect has confirmed Valencia's position as one of the most entertaining cities in Europe.
The Fallas are divided into seven important stages. Public enthusiasm ensures that Valencia is adorned in festival garb and everybody takes to the streets. The ceremonies which make up the whole week of the festival are: the nomination and proclamation of the Queens of the Fallas for the year, the Exaltation, the Crida, the Cavalcade of the Ninot the Offering of Flowers, the Planta and the Crema.
" mascletá" is the noisiest act of the whole
fallas celebration. rows of, and single, firecrackers (by the
thousands), making valencia as deafening as the shot
heard around the world.
The "Mascletá" is the noisiest act of the whole Fallas celebration. Rows of, and single, firecrackers (by the thousands), making Valencia as deafening as the shot heard around the world.
The Exaltation is, with the Offering of Flowers, one of the most colorful moments of the Fallas. In this ceremony, Valencians and the various institutions pay homage to the Falla Queens who receive their sashes and jewels of office in the Palau de la Musica. As the Attendant Courts of the Falla Queen and the Falla Princess go up to the stage, the place begins to be filled with baskets of flowers donated by Valencian and a few Spanish collectives. One of the most important figures at the Exaltation is the chairman, who represents the world of culture and makes a speech to all those present which can be of a justificatory or political nature or poetic.
The Offering of Flowers to Our Lady of the Foresaken in the ceremony for which Valencia is entirely dressed in its best and renders homage at the feet of her patron saint, offering thousands of bouquets of flowers, baskets of posies and floral shrine arrangements. During the twenty-four hours which the Offering lasts, the Virgin, fondly referred to by the Valencians as "Geperudeta", receives her tribute. On this day, the sobriquet of Valencia, city of flowers becomes reality, and the Basilica square is turned into a beautiful and colorful garden, with more than thirty tons of flowers decorating just one of the principal squares of the city.
The culminating night of the "Cremá".
"Planta" is the ceremony which everyone awaits
with impatience. On 15 March the paper mache effigies are assembled,
not without a considerable struggle, in the squares and
streets of Valencia. Hundreds of these Fallas invade the city,
as many as there are houses to make them. On this day the creations
of the "fallero" artists are displayed, the
work of hundreds of specialists: carpenters, painters,
sculptors, designers, etc. The effigies and ninots are
admired by both all alike , Valencians and tourists. The
Fallas show off their lively colors and enormous size,
and make clear which personalities have been the focus of
public opinion and attention. There are few Spanish politicians
who escape from the satire of the "fallero"
The Crema is the culmination of the Fallas. For some it is the saddest moment, while for others it is the high point of the festival. On the night of the feast of St. Joseph, 19 March, the Fallas are lit. The last effigies to be devoured by the flames are those Fallas that have been awarded prizes by the
Genrakl Fallas Committee and those in the City Hall square. Only one "ninot" is saved each year, from the flames by popular vote, and exhibited in the Museum of the Ninot together with those from various years which won the same privilege. Kilos and kilos of fireworks surround the monuments. At about midnight Valencia goes up in flames. The spectacle of the fire and noise, produced by more than three hundred fires spread throughout the city, is quite something to see!
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