##They’re back! Between September 1, 2021, and September 5, 2021, ‘Las Fallas’ festivities will once again commence in Valencia. After being cancelled in 2020 and delayed in March this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the president of the Valencian Community, Ximo Puig, has announced that there will be a Las Fallas festival, albeit on a smaller scale.
Las Fallas is Valencia’s most famous festival, the festivities include music, dancing, fireworks, art and decades of tradition. Declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the festival sees falleros artists work throughout the year to create pieces of art, in the form of sculptures. These are then burnt in bonfires, as such is the time-honoured tradition. These sculptures are called Fallas…and they often reflect the typical events of the day via the festival through wit and irony.
The tradition of burning the Fallas is thought to have stemmed from Valencian carpenters. The carpenters would burn old pieces of rubbish at the doors of their workshops, on the eve of the celebration of their patron, San José. The burning was used as a sign that winter was over, and spring was arriving. As this tradition carried on, the carpenters began to throw more objects in the fire, many of which were shown to begin to look doll-like and were symbolic.
As the symbolism grew and items were thrown into the fire each year, the City Council of Valencia decided to start promoting the festival in 1901. As part of the festival, the council decided to award a first prize to the best Fallas of the city as part of an incentive to create a bigger interest for artists to participate in Las Fallas. This tradition has now turned into over one-hundred years of festivities and the more recent Las Fallas have attracted over two million visitors each year and generated around sixty million euros in revenue for Valencia.
Before the ceremonial burning of the Fallas, which takes place at the end of the festival in an event called Cremá, every year one of the figures called a Ninot is saved from burning through a vote. This Ninot is called the Ninot Indultat, meaning the pardoned ninot and it is then added to the exhibition in the Fallas Museum where it joins the other Ninot Indultats from previous years.
As well as the burning of the Fallas, Las Fallas has many other traditions. Whilst the September Las Fallas festivities may not see all of these activities, due to the Coronavirus pandemic affecting the scale of the festival that the Valencian Community is allowed to hold, some of the traditional customs will still be going ahead…it is hoped.
One of the traditions of the festivities is the role of La Fallera Mayor. Every year, a woman is chosen as the main representative of Las Fallas. The woman chosen wears a traditional costume and consequently becomes a Las Fallas ambassador for one year. There is also a Fallera Mayor Infantil picked, who is a girl.
One important aspect of Las Fallas is the fireworks and the firework display. Thought to be one of the most important shows of Las Fallas, the fireworks are a celebration of light and colour. Many Valencians see the fireworks as the most important night show. They then view La mascletá as the important show during the day. La mascletá focuses on sound. Typically held in the City Council square, La mascletá is a pyrotechnic show that is shown to be filled with rhythmical music and loud noises.
Lights and music are shown to be a vital piece of the Las Fallas festivities. During Las Fallas, the streets in Valencia are shown to be heavily lit and decorated. Every kilometre of Valencia is covered with different coloured displays of strands of lights that are often in a variety of different designs and shapes.
With this year’s Las Fallas less than a month away, a look back at previous festivals shows that despite having to be on a smaller scale…this Las Fallas of 2021 should still be a memorable event just for being able to go ahead in these difficult times.
Article by Rhianydd Sword
Fallas photo copyright 24/7 Valencia
Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not all the ususal festivities of Fallas will be taking place in 2021.