‘Falles’ (or ‘Fallas’ in Spanish) is observed between March 15 and 19 every year in Valencia, Spain. The yearly cultural celebration is also called the ‘Fallas de Valencia’, or the ‘Fiesta de San Jose’ because it commemorates Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpentry. The city-wide festival is one of Valencia’s most celebrated and highly revered traditions and is also one of Spain’s biggest street festivals. The festival’s name ‘falles’ literally means ‘torches,’ which explains why the event is known for its elaborate fireworks, traditional music, medieval costumes, and fun parades. While the main festival happens in Valencia city, minor fallas celebrations also take place throughout the region during the fiesta.
History of Falles
‘Falles’ is an annual traditional festival in the city of Valencia, Spain. There are several accounts about the origin of this ancient celebration, with some attributing the festival to the city’s carpenters who burned pieces of wood in a bid to celebrate the arrival of spring. The city-wide festival also honors St. Joseph — the patron saint of carpenters. Although the actual festival lasts five days — March 15 to 19 — traditional preparations for the fiesta begin as early as March 1. From March 1 until 19, ‘La Mascletà’ — an explosive, thunderous show of firecrackers and fireworks displays — takes place daily at 2:00 P.M. at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento — the City Hall square. Each neighborhood in Valencia appoints a ‘casal faller’ or ‘comissió fallera’, the registered committee which oversees the construction of a falla that is eventually burned on the last day of the festival.
By March 15 at ‘La Plantà’, over 700 huge ‘ninots’ — satirical sculptures made of papier-mâché, wood, or plaster — are erected around the city. The highlight of March 17 is the parade of the ‘reinas falleras’ (queens of the falles). Donning spectacular costumes, the festival queens march through the streets to the city square in a colorful procession. Another colorful procession, the floral offering to ‘Mare de Déu dels Desamparats’ (‘Our Lady of the Forsaken’) — Valencia’s patron saint — also takes place. By midnight on March 18, the ‘Nit del Foc’ — ‘Night of Fire’ — begins with a magnificent spectacle of colorful fireworks.
The festival culminates with the ‘Nit de la Cremà’ — ‘Night of the Burning’ — starting at 10:00 P.M. on March 19 with the incineration of the children’s monuments. At midnight, the large falles are lit up. The Fallas Festival officially climaxes and ends at 1:00 A.M. when the city council’s falla is set aflame.
Consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus establishes Valencia as a Roman colony.
Valencia becomes the most populous and richest city in the Kingdom of Aragon.
King Alfonso XIII inaugurates Valencia’s central market.
The Falles Festival is added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list.
Who are the falleras?
Falleros are those people who create the falla sculptures, and the falleras are the women who make the falla sculptures. There’s also a fallera who’s a woman elected to represent her Valencia barrio or neighborhood.
How many casal fallers are there?
There are about 750 casal fallers (neighborhood associations) in Valencia, having over 200,000 members — about a quarter of Valencia’s total population.
What do people wear during the Falles?
During Falles, many people dress up in casual faller costumes from different eras of Valencian history.
The Spanish city of Valencia goes agog during the festival and it welcomes tourists who want to grace the fiesta. Don’t forget to take safety precautions because the fireworks can be really loud!
Tour the museums
Between Tuesday and Friday every week, you can visit the historical Falles Museum which houses the pardoned ninots and posters of the Falles spanning across decades. You can also tour the Guild of Falles Artists Museum to view models of the official falles for recent years.
Grace the side attractions
Falles is not just about burning the fallas. You can also go sightseeing and enjoy other events such as bullfights, paella contests, beauty pageants, and flower offerings around the city.
5 Interesting Facts About Valencia
Behind the name
The city’s name comes from the Roman word ‘Valentia’ meaning ‘valor’— bravery, courage, and strength.
It could get really hot
Valencia’s maximum temperature sometimes gets up to 42°C.
It’s Spain’s third-largest city
With a population of about 800,000, Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain — just behind Madrid and Barcelona.
Dual official languages
Valencians speak two official languages: Valenciano (Catalan dialect) and Spanish.
A pleasant tourist destination
Valencia attracts many visitors yearly because of its thriving culture, commerce, entertainment, and nightlife scenes.
Why We Love Falles
It’s an ageless tradition
No one knows for sure when Falles began in Valencia, but the tradition has endured through the ages. Every year, the city’s population more than doubles as about a million fire-loving revelers partake in the celebrations.
The five-day city-wide festival is popular for its colorful native costumes, folk dances, and street carnivals. The games and beauty pageants are other side attractions that make the fiesta spectacular.
There is no Falles without pyrotechnics. It’s also a convergence point for artists and artisans, sculptors, painters, and other craftsmen who work tirelessly to create masterpieces.