A display of fire and beauty in Valencia As The Beatles sang: “It’s been a long cold lonely winter, but here comes the sun”! And what better way to celebrate the sun than by partying with the Spanish at one of the most spectacular festivities that thrives off an amazing natural phenomenon: Las Fallas in Valencia! TEXT: NOELIA SANTANA I PRESS PHOTOS
Despite common beliefs, Las Fallas didn’t start as a celebration of the equinox. Instead, it originates from a banal and also slightly dangerous custom. During the winter months, the Valencian carpenters used to work under the warm light of oil lamps and candles placed precariously in simple wooden structures around their workshops. 19 March marks the end of winter but also, conveniently, the day of Saint Joseph, patron of carpenters. On this day, they put together these wooden reminders of the dark bleak days and set them on fire; welcoming the longer days and joyous feelings of spring. Throughout the years, the pyres of wood started to take the form of decorative dolls and people of the town. These figures – called ‘ninots’ – became an expression of artistry and a part of the city’s culture. Thus began the competition between neighbourhoods that still stands today. 8 | Issue 13 | March 2020
Las Fallas is a display of Valencian culture at its best: parades, celebrations and the smell of ‘churros’ mixed with the hints of smoke and gunpowder that takes over the city. The festivities start at the beginning of March with daily fireworks at the city square and, on the 15th of the month, the ‘plantá’ takes place. Work goes on all night to install over 700 figurines in the city’s streets and squares. These skyhigh structures can reach up to 20 metres. They are a creative critique to society, often depicting current world events.
to be with family and friends, to forget about the time, to eat and drink, to dance and cheer. And on the night of the 19th when the ‘fallera mayor’ shouts “senyor pirotécnic, pot començar la mascletà”, to start the ‘cremá’, everyone observes the display of fireworks burning down the ninots, some cheering, some crying, as the fire is engulfing an expression of art but also marking the end to the fun and festivities, the return to reality. That is until next year, of course.
For Valencians, Las Fallas is a unique event that they prepare for all year; a time What: A crazy festival on the streets of Valencia Where: Valencia When: 15-19 March How: The events are free, so just turn up.
Gran Canaria-born, London-based Noelia Santana is wrapped in high fashion, from head to heel. As founder of Estilistas, she runs a digital one-stop-shop for fashion lovers and a personal styling platform for the masses. www.estilistas.co.uk