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Las Fallas

Filed in Blog, Spain by on September 18, 2017
by Benjamin W.

My trip to Valencia, Spain, was only for a day, but it was a special day — the final day of Las Fallas. Las Fallas, or The Fires, is one of Spain’s largest festivals that occurs every year in mid-March where wooden ninots are burned at the end of the festival. A ninot is an enormous monument that is burned in honor of Saint Joseph., the patron saint of carpenters. Each year in March, ninots of all form, mystical and political, colors, shapes and sizes are placed in every plaza throughout the center of Valencia. There’s a long history behind Las Fallas dating back to the middle ages but, in short, carpenters would burn their old and no longer necessary wood in the spring. This, over a long period of time, turned into what the ninots look like today: colorful, people-life or creature-like figures standing up to 30 meters tall. Ninots can represent famous people, politicians or extravagant fairy tale characters. Each neighborhood has a committee that organizes the financing to help construct the ninots.

The Virgin mary

The Virgin Mary made of flowers; she is not burned.

The final day of Las Fallas leads up to La Crema, or the burning, where every ninot is burned. This is the day thousands of Spaniards and tourists travelling from far and wide have been waiting to see. Valencia has a population of 1.5 million. Now triple that number and put all those people all in one area in the middle of this city with fireworks, chocolate-covered churros and more fireworks. Things got wild. One detail I cannot forget to mention is that so many people, of all ages, light off firecrackers all day and well into the night. Adults and kids would carry around bags full of firecrackers and throw them in the streets and the plazas. I must also not forget to mention the churros, a delicious fried pastry covered in cinnamon, and the paella, a famous blend of rice, saffron, chicken or seafood — a true Valencian dish. For me, food is just as important as the festival itself. After all, it’s hard to have fun on an empty stomach.

Award winning falla

Award winning falla.

Every ninot was an incredible work of art that you hate to see destroyed, but watching one burn is a beautiful sight. I had to pick only one or two to watch burn because many ninots are burned in the same hour to save time. The ninots burn right next to people’s apartments in small squares in the middle of the city. It can get hot if you get close but they are all blocked off and safely controlled by the Valencian bomberos, or firefighters. After all of the ninots are torched, thousands gather around the main monument that towers above city hall in Plaza del Ayuntamiento to watch the final burn. A beautifully crafted wooden tower caught on fire and lit up the city as locals and eager travelers gazed upon its powerful flame. I will never forget that image.

The final burn

The final burn.

About the blogger

Benjamin W. is studying abroad on the Universidad de Alicante: ALI Abroad program in Alicante, Spain.

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