Spring is sprung as Valencia thrills to Las Fallas

17th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

17 March 2005, VALENCIA- The streets of Valencia are filled with noise and colour with the appearance of papier mache figures satirizing society and current politics in the traditional Las Fallas festival celebrating the approach of Spring.

17 March 2005

VALENCIA- The streets of Valencia are filled with noise and colour with the appearance of papier mache figures satirizing society and current politics in the traditional Las Fallas festival celebrating the approach of Spring.

For the past few days, the streets of Valencia, on Spain's eastern Mediterranean coast have been crowded with residents and visitors flocking to see the cartoonish but meticulously crafted figures.

They take part in the daily "mascletas" - the carefully orchestrated explosion of hundreds of sound fireworks - and enjoy the traditional treat of fried dough dipped in chocolate.

Valencia is renowned for its annual Fallas festival in honour of St. Joseph.

The fete's bonfires, fireworks, music and flowers symbolize the purification and renewal heralded by the coming of springtime.

The festivities begin on 22 February, but not until 15 March 15 does the true party kick off with the figures paraded in the streets.

This year, there are 15 papier mache figures and scenes competing for the festival's top honours.

Some of the monumental and fanciful sculptures cost up to EUR 224,000 to make and stand between 18 and 30 meters (about 60 and 100 feet) high.

In addition to the enormous papier mache creations, some 380 smaller "fallas" - as the figures, which also include wood and wax, are known - have been constructed in Valencia and its environs.

A falla is a large set-piece on a given theme, and usually includes an eye-catching central feature with little scenes around it peopled by humorous figures, called ninots.

At the end of the festival, all the fallas - except for one - will be burned shortly after midnight on St. Joseph's Day – 19 March.

Valencia neighbourhoods compete for the honour of having their falla "pardoned," or saved from the flames and preserved in the city's Ninot Museum.

The preparations for the festival take almost a year, and just a few days after its culmination the city neighbourhoods' "falla committees" will start preparing next year's papier mache designs and working out the details for the 2006 celebration.

The festival originated in the 12th and 13th-century practices of the local carpenters' guild, which burned its wood shavings and cast-off remainder pieces in huge bonfires on St. Joseph's Day eve to commemorate their patron saint's feast day and the arrival of Spring.

The custom spread into the city's various neighbourhoods and grew over the centuries into the current big production.

This year again the noise and music - not to mention the massive crowds - have invaded the city for four days of exhausting revel culminating in a huge fireworks celebration on the evening of 18 March and the massive bonfire that will send almost all of the colourful and allegorical fallas up in smoke just after midnight.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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