Thunderous Fireworks Rock Spain’s Valencia as Revellers Enjoy Fallas Festival

Las Fallas takes place in Valencia, and packs around 3 million pyromaniacs into a city of just a million inhabitants. Las Fallas is a celebration of the coming of spring and a chance to wish a jubilant bon voyage to winter. Locals bid farewell to those cold nights by building giant ninots (puppets or dolls) out of cardboard, wood, paper machè and plaster, and then burn them to the ground. There are spectacular fireworks set off from every angle, and, of course plenty of sangria and dancing in the streets.

The ninots are made to look lifelike and usually fit in with current events, poking fun at Spanish politicians and celebrities. The massive structures are sometimes lifted into place by cranes on the day of La Plantà, or “the rising,” and they remain here until La Crema, the day of the burning, on the 19th March,. Young men wander around the city with axes making little hard-to-spot holes in the Ninots and stuffing them full of fireworks. Just before midnight the crowds in Valencia start to chant, the streetlights are turned off, and finally at midnight the ninots are set ablaze. What follows is an explosion of fireworks, roaring fires and a street party to remember (or forget entirely)..

How did Las Fallas start?

If you thought the hottest thing about Valencia was its oranges, think again. Las Fallas, Valencia’s fire festival, is a flaming five-day street party. Every year in March, the community takes to the streets to burn enormous effigies, some up to 20 metres high. So how did Las Fallas start?

It is said that back in the olden’ days, the celebration echoed pagan celebrations of the spring equinox. Artists and tradesmen would work by night during winter using wooden parots to hold their lamps. Once spring sprung and the daylight hours lengthened, they no longer needed their parots and would gather to burn them on the eve of St. Joseph’s Day.

The cheeky Valencians developed this tradition into a burning of wooden effigies, called ninots, satirising the people and events of the past year. Over the years, Las Fallas has evolved to take on themes, and acts as a way for the community to criticise, tongue-in-cheek, everything from local personalities to politicians and current events. The themes of the fiery riot will reflect the political climate of the times. During the twentieth century, particularly in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, the themes became more anti-clerical and strongly critical of local and national government. There have been numerous attempts to ban Las Fallas over the centuries, for reasons ranging from lewdity to anti-government sentiment, but the passion of the people always saw the beloved fire fiesta return.

Today, the procession is bigger than ever. The ninots are often made from polystyrene and cork, allowing their enormous height. By night, the burning ninots illuminate the riotous streets of Valencia, while young and old gather to throw firecrackers about and generally run amok. As soon as the final flames die down, Valencians commence fundraising, organising and building in preparation for the next year’s Las Fallas.

March 18th 2018 – Revelers packed into the main square in the city of Valencia on Spain’s Mediterranean coast to witness a thunderous firework display marking the penultimate day of the Fallas festival, which takes place annually in honor of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpentry.

As is tradition, the daily “Mascleta” firecracker show was initiated at the command of the honorary female figure known as the Fallera Mayor, who ceremoniously called down from the balcony of city hall to give permission for the pyrotechnics to begin.

The fuse was lit and the square was filled with rhythmic explosions accompanied by plumes of colored powder rising meters high into the bright spring air.

The display reached a deafening finale as some 290 kilos (639 pounds) of pyrotechnic material went up in smoke in a 35-second barrage of explosions.

Yet Sunday’s display was only the preamble to Monday night’s grand finale: La Crema (The Burning), which showcases huge bonfires in the city hall square.

It is on this night that huge man-made structures, known as fallas, are burnt to a crisp.

These fallas usually comprise a collection of smaller, individual figurines called ninots, which made from papier-mache or wood and are often designed to resemble recognizable celebrity figures, (this year Cristiano Ronaldo is prominent).

The Fallas festival was listed in 2016 on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity, and attracts thousands of revelers to the city in search of a weekend of merry-making.