Las Fallas 2016 is one of the most colorful and exuberant Spanish celebrations. Each year from March 13 to March 19, the City of Valencia erupts into one big party. It is begun with the setting off of fireworks that rattle windows and it culminates in a veritable frenzy of fireworks when huge and costly papier mache structures are set afire in a spectacle resembling a hundred Burning Man festivals. The town of Bunol (about 25 miles west of Valencia) has a Tomatina Tomato Festival, in which hundreds of people hurl tomatoes at each other. And Pamplona has its Running of the Bulls. All three of these festivals are filled with fun and chaos.
Las Fallas History and Facts
The Las Fallas Festival Valencia has its origins in pagan rituals celebrating the Spring Equinox. It appears that the association with fire began with carpenters, who began burning the "parots" (wooden planks with candles) that they had used to light their workplace during the short days of winter. As the days lengthened and the parots were no longer needed, the carpenters burned them. Over time, they began to decorate them with rags and hats, and the parots began to resemble crude scarecrows. These became more and more elaborate, and today they are highly stylized works of art called "ninots." Many are satirical representations of politicians, movie stars, and other celebrities, and others are imaginative depictions of fictional characters from Peter Pan to Shrek. Many are 20 to 50 feet tall and resemble the kinds of figures you see in major parades like the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. At some point, the Catholic Church made this tradition a religious one honoring St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. March 19 is St. Joseph's Day in Spain.
Las Fallas Location and Getting There
Las Fallas 2016 occurs in the Mediterranean city of Valencia. You can get here on many cruises, as well as on ferries from the Balearic Islands of Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. There is an international airport, and there are flights to Valencia from many cities in Europe, Northern Africa, and Istanbul in Turkey. There are seasonal flights from the New York City, so most American visitors who fly in connect in Europe or through Madrid. There is excellent train service and the roads to the city are excellent.
You can see the incredible ninots just about everywhere. Each barrio (neighborhood) creates its own. They are paraded through the streets and displayed in prominent places where they are admired and voted on. The Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the city's central square, is the site of la Mascleta every day at 2:00 p.m. This is a noisy "concert of gunpowder" in which competing neighborhoods vie to set off the loudest volley of firecrackers. Another Las Fallas Festival Valencia event is the Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados (Offering of Flowers to the Virgin). Hundreds of traditionally costumed Spaniards from the area around the city parade through the streets on March 17 and 18 on their way to Plaza de la Virgin and the Basilica de los Desamparados. The last night of the festival is the Nit del Foc (Night of Fire) in which all the ninots are burned in a fabulous display along the Paseo de la Alameda.
Las Fallas Tickets
The vast majority of Las Fallas Festival Valencia events are free. There are two museums dedicated to the festival. The Las Fallas Museum located near the City of Arts and Sciences and the ferry port has a nominal admission charge. Here you can view those ninots that have been spared from burning; voting determines the best one each year and it is moved to the museum. Outside of town is the Museum of the Fallero Artist, which provides a fascinating look at the construction of the pieces as well as many examples. There is a small fee to enter this museum as well. Both of these are excellent if your Spain vacations don't coincide with the festival. Bullfighting is important in Valencia, and there are daily bullfights during the festival before the main season begins. Tickets for these can be hard to come by. If you're interested in this, try to make your arrangements as far in advance as possible.
Las Fallas Lodging
You have a wide variety of hundreds of Valencia hotels, bed and breakfast inns, pensions, and even hostels for your Las Fallas 2016 vacation. If you've come to enjoy everything, including the substantial noise of firecrackers, you might choose the Hotel Melia Plaza, located at Plaza del Ayuntamiento, 46002, right next to the Gothic La Lonja Silk Exchange, an extraordinary example of fifteenth-century secular Gothic architecture that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you want to be further away from the action (and noise), you might opt for beach resorts. Normally, it is quite easy to get to the center of the city from the beach, but be aware that there are big crowds and many streets are closed off during the festival.