From March 15 to 19 the streets of Valencia transform into a distorted Wonderland of massive dolls that stare down at you in satirical delight. These dolls, called ninots in Valencian, are mounted onto floats with other ninots, which are all filled with firecrackers waiting to be set aflame on the final night. These giant floats contain specific scenes that range from Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un taking a rollercoaster missile ride bearing sinister smiles and Mickey Mouse ears to football rivals Gerad Pique and Sergio Ramos sharing a friendly embrace in a teacup ride.
During these festivities, you can find beautiful fallera girls of all ages dressed in handmade ballgowns bearing handstitched flowers and lace. On their necks hang dazzling pendants and earrings and their hair is adorned with a hairdo fit for Star Wars’ Princess Leia with two earmuff buns and a braided labyrinth at the back complete with golden clips and pins. The complete fallera outfit can cost from 2,000 to 10,000 euros; an outfit suitable for a princess bride!
All day and night marching bands fill the streets with music, children throw noisemakers at the ground and the thunderous sound of firecrackers echo off the buildings. Les Falles is undoubtedly one of the most unique and popular festivals in all of Spain as the population of the city triples during the celebrations as people come to enjoy around 800 falles (floats).
This extensive street festival is a celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph. Each neighbourhood of the city has an organized group of people called the casal faller, that works all year long to produce these intricate falles that can extend up to five stories high and are burnt on the final night of the festival. The casal fallers hold many parties and dinners during the year to fundraise money for these falles.
The festivities begin on March 15th with La Crida, an opening ceremony beneath the Serranos Towers. At this ceremony there are displays of light, sound, music and fireworks and the Fallera Mayor (the Festival Queen) invites everyone to join the festival. After the opening ceremony, each day begins with La Despertà (the “wake-up call”) where a band marches down the streets playing loud music and fallers throw firecrackers in the streets at 8 a.m. Throughout the festivities, there are several parades, the most memorable one being Cabalgata del Ninot, where participants dress as famous personalities or politicians to criticize current events in a satirical way.
On March 17 and 18 the casals fallers take an offering of flowers to an enormous statue of the Virgin Mary in an event called L’Ofrena de Flors where the statue’s pedestal is covered in flowers. Each day as the clock chimes 2 p.m., the Fallera Major calls from the balcony of the city hall, “Senyor pirotècnic, pot començar la mascletà!” (Mr. Pyrotechnic, you may commence the Mascletà!), thus commencing La Mascletà, a coordinated display of firecrackers and fireworks held in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament. Each night of the festival there are fireworks, until the final night on the 19th where the falles are burnt in the La Cremà celebration.
Les Falles is an outstanding festival of fireworks, fire and complete satirical creativity that brings the Valencian culture to the world stage.