Las Fallas (3)
March 17 and 18
For many locals, March 17 and 18, and their Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados, or The Offering of Flowers to Our Lady of the Helpless, is the highlight of the festival. On Plaza de la Virgen, two disembodied heads sit atop a bare wooden frame – a half -finished monument of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. Over the two days (4-10pm each day), around one hundred thousand women from the falla committees process through the city in their traditional dress, carrying bouquets of flowers that they hand to the men to clothe the bare frame with. By the time the parades finish on the evening of the 18th, a veritable mountain of flowers has piled up, and everyone heads across the Jardi del Turia for the Nit del Foe, or Night of Fire – a fire and fireworks extravaganza that makes the explosion scenes in Apocalypse Now look like a picnic in the park. Grab some beers, make for the Paseo Alameda (from 1.30am) and prepare to have your senses numbed.
March 19, El dia de San Jose, is the festival’s grand finale, and there’s a slight feeling of sadness in the air – partly due to three-nights’ ggregate hangover and partly because the festivities are almost over.
The day follows much the same schedule as previous days but with a couple of final parades thrown in for good measure: the mascleta (the biggest and loudest of them all) is followed by the Cabalgata del Foe, or Fire Parade (7pm), a huge procession of firework-spluttering beasts and demons that makes its way in spectacular fashion along Calle Colon; and the dazzling Parada Mora (also 7pm), where people dressed in lavish Moorish costumes march down Calle Almirante
At midnight, all hell breaks loose with the Grand Crema, or Big Burn, as the effigies are stuffed with fireworks and burned in one of the most spectacular acts of pyrotechnic pandemonium you’ll ever see. The first ones to go up at around 10pm he timing is often off as the fire brigade gets into place and ensures security) are the fallas infantiles wrapped in explosives. At around 12.30am, the first-prize falla is burned, at the same me as the other major fallas around town, and at 1am, the jalla in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento gets torched. As it catches, belching black smoke and shooting flames into the sky, the ands strike up the Himno a Valencia, and the falla is engulfed. As the fire grows in intensity the front rows of the crowds fall back to escape the searing heat, cheers erupt from the mob and firemen (some 450 are on fallas duty this night) hose down the surrounding buildings to prevent the glass panes from exploding. In squares and streets all over the city, the fallas succumb to the same fate as they have for nearly two centuries. After half an hour, nothing remains of the fallas except for their ashes, and the party is over. Well, almost, as plenty of bars fill up to the wee Urs on one last hedonistic binge.
Other Las Fallas celebrations
Las Fallas is celebrated in many towns across the region of Valencia in the run-up to spring. Locals in the smaller locations often put up a falla during their patron saint festivities, regardless of the month in which it is held. Outside Valencia city, the towns most noted for their festivities are Benidorm and Denia (near Alicante). Both of these are essentially smaller scale versions of the Valencia festivities, with flower offerings, fireworks, and, of course, fallas, which, as in Valencia, are erected, admired – and finally – burnt to the ground, during the last-night crema.