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See Valencia On Fire At The Las Fallas Festival, Spain

Publicado by Bill Lehane, Writer

País: Espanha

A Experiência

Aside from being the birthplace of paella, there is only one thing that the Spanish city of Valencia is famous for – the delightful papier-mâché models, pageantry and fireworks that take over the town for the Las Fallas festival.
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Staged annually on March 19th, this centuries-old festival has become a four-day extravaganza that attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists to the city every year. The event traces its origins back to a custom of the city’s carpenters, who burned their scrap wood and utensils worn out from the winter in time for the feast of Saint Joseph – their patron saint – on March 19th. The “Fallas” were the piles of combustible materials gathered for the occasion.
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The modern festival took shape in the late 19th Century, when prizes began to be awarded for the most creative use of the leftover materials. Over time, the festival has become a focus of artistic creativity and often searing social commentary that even caused the event to be banned for a time in the 1870s. Today more than 700 Fallas large and small are created each year.
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Las Fallas gets under way on March 16, when all competing Fallas have to be completed. Taking in some cases up to a year to plan, design and build, these models are spread all over the city for the festive week. Some encapsulate entire scenes from cartoons and fairytales using sets of dwarf-sized figures called ninots.
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The focus turns to religion on the following two days, with a Catholic procession known as La Ofrenda. At this time fallas makers ceremoniously bring flowers to the city’s central Plaza of the Virgin, which are used to decorate an enormous wooden-framed statue of Mary. The procession pageants that trail through the center of the city to the plaza on these days are a colorful and pretty sight, with many groups in period costumes and sassy Latin marching bands.
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One feature of Las Fallas you definitely can’t ignore is the fireworks displays that blast all around town for the duration of the festival. Occurring three times daily, the fireworks kick off with an 8am display known as la despertà. At 2pm at the main Plaza del Ayuntamiento there is a gigantic fireworks display called la mascletà that centers around a 120-kilo gunpowder blast. Perhaps the most special of the three is el castillo, the midnight fireworks display that reaches its height on the final night of the festival, dubbed la nit de foc, or “night of fire”.
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The climax of Las Fallas is la cremà, the night when each of the models in turn is set alight between 10pm and 1am. This dramatic, unusual display may appear like a harrowing street riot at first, but once you adjust your eyes you can enjoy the festival atmosphere and communal sense of seasonal renewal.




Quando ir to Las Fallas Valencia

The city of Valencia, Spain’s third largest, is well served by air connections involving a number of different airlines from cities all around Europe. Delta flies direct to Valencia from the United States.
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Before you go, make sure to make an accommodation reservation as the city is packed to the rafters during festival time and rooms will disappear fast.
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Given that the bulk of the city’s streets are closed off to traffic for the duration of Las Fallas, you won’t get much use from a rental car unless you’re planning some day trips as part of your holiday. The city’s metro, bus and train network is quite sufficient for getting around, especially in the compact central area.

Odds n 'Termina

Many of the city’s restaurants remain closed during the festival, and the others are likely to be quite crowded. If you’re stuck you can always get churros or buñelos at one of the stands set up all along the street. There are also lots of temporary bars dotted around the city that add to the festival vibe.
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While you’re in Valencia make sure to visit Valencia Cathedral, where you can see the gold- and pearl-studded cup of the Holy Grail, recently made famous by the “Da Vinci Code” movie. Unlike in the Hollywood version, the ancient chalice from the Last Supper is in reality very easy to find, with free admission!


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