‘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
Fallas is a holiday celebrated by the citizens of Spain and is used as an opportunity to commemorate Saint Joseph. It’s thought the holiday began in the Middle Ages when craftsmen and artisans began disposing of pieces of wood and artifacts by burning them to celebrate the spring equinox. Over time, with the intervention of the Church, the burning of these materials, known as the ‘parot,’ was made to coincide with the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.
Years passed, and the tradition changed shape, and by the 16th century, Falles had become a popular celebration. Children would run from household to household, asking for “una estoreta valletta,” or “old rugs” to add to the parot, which was made from old utensils and furniture. A few decades later, people began to create ‘falles,’ towering boxes made from paper and wood fitted with three to four wax dolls in fabric clothing. However, things began to change at the turn of the 20th century.
The falles constructions began to be made with cardboard and later with polystyrene and soft cork, allowing people to create falles over 100 feet high. The towering constructions also became more critical of the government, which had tried to shut down the festival many times without success. However, during the time of the shutdowns, the festival became associated with many religious customs like the offering of flowers to ‘Mare de Déu dels Desamparats,’ or ‘Our Lady of the Forsaken,’ which are essential parts of the festival today.
The price of canons rises, so fallers refuse to place the falles monuments in the festival.
The Fallas celebration gets annulled by the government during the Spanish American War.
King Alfonso XIII inaugurates Valencia’s central market.
Due to the Spanish Civil War, the government suspends Fallas for three years.
The Falles Festival is added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list.
The Valencia Generalitat postpones Fallas to prevent a virus from spreading.
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.
What does ‘Fallas’ mean?
Fallas is a celebration of the coming of spring in Spain.
Why is Las Fallas so important?
The Fallas festival is an important traditional celebration of silk in Valencia. It is used to commemorate the city’s long Silk Road trade history.
What food is eaten during Las Fallas?
During Las Fallas, traditional foods are served in the streets. A unique festival treat is buñuelos de calabazas or pumpkin fritters, which are accompanied by rich chocolate.
How to Observe Falles
Fallas is an experience rarely experienced by tourists. But if you love Spanish culture or celebrating in general and have time on your hands, fly to Spain and participate in the yearly dances and bonfires.
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.
5 Facts About Fallas Celebrations
Flowers are offered
During the event, every casal faller gives an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary.
Mary’s statue is covered with flowers
A statue of the Virgin Mary is covered with all the flowers on the holiday.
There are fireworks
There are stunning displays of green, purple, and yellow fireworks in València.
There’s a Night of Fire
The fireworks displays get grander, and the last is called “La Nit del Foc,” which means the “Night of Fire.”
There’s a fire parade
The “Fire Parade” or the “Cavalcada del Foc” takes place along Colon street and Porta de la Mar Square.
Why Falles is Important
It preserves tradition
Fallas is a traditional holiday celebrated for thousands of years in Spain. The annual celebration helps to keep the tradition alive and pass it down to younger generations.
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.
It honors important heroes
The holiday is used to honor heroes held in high esteem in Spain. Some of these heroes include Saint Joseph and Virgin Mary.