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Las Fallas 2011
March 15 19 Valencia Spain
Las Fallas literally means the fires in Valencia, and without a doubt Las Fallas lives up to it’s name as one of the most unique and crazy festivals in all of Spain. What began as a feast day for St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, has now evolved into a 5-day, celebration involving one key element… fire.
Valencia itself is a quiet city with a population of just over 1 million people, however each year during this fiesta it triples with an estimated 3 million flame loving and fire crazy party goers hitting the city during the Las Fallas celebrations.
The main focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots otherwise known as puppets or dolls, which are massive cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster statues, these ninots are extremely lifelike and one of the locals favourite reoccurring themes is to poke fun at various corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities.
These labor-intensive ninots, can cost thousands of Euros to build, are painstakingly crafted by various neighborhood organizations and take almost the entire year to construct.
Many ninots are up to several stories tall and need to be moved by cranes into their final locations, spanning over 350 key intersections and parks around the city on the day of la plantà or the rising. The ninots stay in place until March 19, the day known as La Crema or the burning.
On the day of La Crema, beginning in the early evening, men with axes chop cleverly-hidden holes in the statues and stuff them with fireworks, as the over zealous crowds start to chant, all the streetlights are turned off, and the ninots are set on fire at exactly midnight.
Over the years, the local bomberos or firemen have devised unique ways to protect the buildings and houses from being accidentally set on fire by the ninots.
Each year, one of the ninots is spared from destruction by the peoples vote, this ninot is called the ninot indultat or the pardoned puppet and is placed in the local museum for exhibit.
The origin of Las Fallas is a bit hazy, but most thinking the fires were an evolution of pagan rituals that celebrated the onset of spring and the planting season, during the 16th century, Valencia used streetlights only during the longer nights of winter and the street lamps were hung on wooden structures, called parots, as the days became longer the unneeded parots were burned on St. Joseph's Day, where as other think that the origins of the festival go back to the time when carpenters cleared out their workshops and talleres at the end of winter, throwing out odds and ends of wood and old candles and lighting them on the street the day of St. Joseph.
Besides the burning of the ninots, there is a host of other activities and events that happen during the fiesta, like the Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados, a beautiful ceremony every March 17 and 18, that honours Valencia’s patron Virgin. Thousands of Falleras and Falleros flock from every corner of the Comunitat or Valencia State, taking to the streets wearing traditional costume and dancing to their neighbourhood or village bands as they wind their way to the Plaza de la Virgen to offer bouquets to the giant image of the Virgin.
By day revellers can enjoy an extensive schedule of bullfights, parades, paella contests and beauty pageants that take place around the city, as well as the random fireworks displays that explode everywhere during the days leading up to La Crema, but the daily highlight is the mascletá which happens in the Plaza Ayuntamiento at exactly 2pm each day, string-lined firecrackers are ignited, the sounds are thunderous, with all those firecrackers timed to fall to the ground literally shake the floor for next 10 minutes, this is an auditory experienced not to be missed!
Valencia is the 3rd largest city in Spain, as has a rich history and architectural wonders to explore.
The Norte Railways station is located in the heart of Valencia, with daily connections to and from Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Alicante, Port Bou, Granada, Bilbao and Zaragoza making it easy to access from the major Spanish cities.
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