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Valencia's burning: No smoke without Fallas
thinkSPAIN , Monday, March 20, 2017

NEARLY 770 falla monuments went up in flames last night (Sunday) in Valencia as is traditional on the last day of the festival in the city and elsewhere in the region.

Smaller towns, mostly in the province of Valencia although some in the north of that of Alicante, hold lower-level versions of the fiesta, with one or two in villages such as Pamís and Pego and six in Oliva, a town of 28,000 inhabitants.

This year has seen the first-ever Fallas celebrated since the festival was declared a UNESCO heritage event, and with over a million visitors to Valencia city alone, the fiesta has broken all records.

The most popular events within the Fallas include the mascletaes, or gunpowder banger displays – normally at 14.00 – where the aim is to make as much noise as possible, and the offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary.

The latter sees falleras, or girls and women in traditional Valencian costume of crinolines and dresses made of braided silk – a material that is starting to creep into mainstream fashion and gradually being exploited by local and regional designers – parading through town to a giant wooden frame with a huge Mary head on top, and slotting bunches of flowers into the slats.

By the time they have finished, the mass of flowers make up the Virgin's dress.

Monuments in papier mâché are set up, featuring figurines representing cartoon-style caricatures of famous people, normally Spanish politicians, celebrities, royalty and sports personalities.

Unusually, US president Donald Trump appeared on several of the falla monuments – a rare move, given that, typically, only national figureheads are used.

Each falla has its own 'commission', or 'club', with a marquée – a casal - set up beside it where all eating, drinking and partying around the clock happens for four solid days, breaking off only to catch a couple of hours' kip in the early morning.

The fallera mayor, or festival queen of each commission is allowed to choose one figurine, or ninot, from her falla to save from the flames – this becomes known as an ninot indultat.

Prizes are given to the best fallas, and when the burning ceremony – known as the cremà – begins, the lowest-placed is set fire to first and the winner last, with all others in order in between.

This year's last-to-burn was the falla L'Antiga de Campanar, near La Fe hospital, Nuevo Centro shopping centre and the bus station, whilst of the children's monuments, first prize went to the falla Convento Jerusalén-Matemático Marzal.

Fallas are typically as tall as a house – reaching at least the second floor of nearby apartment blocks in smaller towns and, in Valencia, up to 41 metres (just over 133 feet) in the case of the 'municipal' falla in the city hall square.

Valencia's festival commissions, both through the money they raise themselves via events and membership fees, and from fiesta grants from the council, blow around €7 million on every Fallas event in less than a week – but they earn this back several times over with the income from tourists from all over the globe flocking to see a pageant as famous as Sevilla's April Fair and Easter week.

Several towns in the Valencia region will take today (Monday) off as a bank holiday, given that March 19 fell on a Sunday this year – meaning falleras and fiesta band musicians who have barely clocked up a full night's worth of sleep in five days will be able to rest off their excesses before going back to work or college.



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