March is approaching fast, and serious hedonists have already booked their flights to Alicante months in advance. They know that the end of February heralds one thing: the biggest party in the world, Las Fallas, is about to begin. For the first nineteen days of March each year Valencia becomes one gigantic celebration, with fireworks, dancing in the street, and a bright colourful parade.
Spain is a country well known for its array of fun and unusual festivals: the Pamplona bull run, the tomato throwing festival, and of course the famous Cava train in October: all are reasons to seek out cheap flights to Spain, but none can measure up to the sheer sensory experience of Las Fallas.
The festival is as joyful as can be: it is celebrating the final days of winter and the beginning of Spring after all. If you’re lucky enough to be in Valencia during March, be sure to bring a pair of earplugs if you’re planning on getting any sleep. The party starts early in the morning and doesn’t finish until late at night: perhaps follow your Valencia trip with a few days at the coast, to unwind.
The afternoons are noisy, too. Each day at 2pm the central Plaza del Ayuntamiento becomes a cacophony as the “concert of gunpowder” (la Mascletá) gets underway. This noisy event sees the neighbourhoods of Valencia getting into groups and competing to be the loudest: with the help of fireworks, firecrackers and gunpowder of course. This culminates in the terremoto: hundreds of masclets exploding simultaneously much to the amusement of the locals.
As you wander around Valencia during this time you may notice effigies of famous faces gracing each street corner. These are the ‘fallas’ and usually take the form of famous celebrities and politicians: last year a Silvio Berlusconi was seen sitting atop a pile of coins with Barbie dolls hanging out of his pockets. This is another neighbourhood competition, with the best ones being selected and displayed in a parade.
Of course, the main event is the final night of Las Fallas: Nit del foc (night of fire). On March 18th, Las Fallas culminates in bonfires across the city as the effigies are burned: even the winners of the competition. During this night Las Fallas has the appearance of the last days of Rome, with the city in flames and happiness and revelry all around.
The only effigy still standing at the end of Las Fallas is the floral statue of the city’s patron saint, Virgen de los Desamparados (Lady of the Forsaken). On the last two days of Las Fallas, people come from miles around to pay tribute to her by laying flowers, singing and dancing.
Fire and flowers: a truly Spanish experience.
James writes for Skyscanner.net