Valencia’s passion for fire has united locals and travelers from all over the world to witness intricate, often political or satirical sculptures burn at the Fallas Festival.
The Fallas Festival is recognized as a symbolic rite of cleansing to leave behind all of the bad from the previous year in order to commence the new one with a positivity. Up to 400 sculptures are burned every year in celebration of art, creativity, and most importantly, community. Enjoy a warm pumpkin treat while listening to traditional Valencian music at this world renown event.
The origins of the fiesta can be traced back to the tradition of carpenters during the 18th century when they burned wooden tools and scraps at the end of winter to welcome the arrival of spring. Over time, this custom evolved into the creation of large wooden figures, or “fallas,” set ablaze in public squares on the night of the feast day of Saint Joseph – the patron saint of carpenters.
In the early 20th century, the Fallas Festival began to take on a more elaborate and artistic form, with installations of large, detailed fallas sculptures that were often satirical and political in nature. The festival became a way for Valencians to express their cultural and political identities while competing with one another to design the most impressive and striking fallas.
Every year, the event lasts from the start of March until the 19th when the city of Valencia comes alive with vibrant and colorful displays of lights, music, and fireworks. Each neighborhood devises its own fallas sculpture, displayed throughout the streets over several days and some can cost up to €70,000 or require a full year to be constructed.
Judges score every ninot – large paper mache sculpture – on the 16th of March to vote which will be the ninot indulat, the one figure saved from being burned. The next day, awards and prizes are given based on various categories. Fireworks light up the night sky between the 15th to the 19th and on the last night of the festival, all sculptures must be burned including the 1st place winner.
Typical dishes and drinks available during the Fallas Festival are pumpkin bunuelos, churros, paella, roasted pumpkin, horchata, beer, wine, bocadillos, and a wide variety of grilled meat. Live traditional Valencian music can be heard throughout the entirety of the event in each neighborhood.
Today, the Fallas Festival continues to stand out as a major cultural and tourist attraction in Valencia, drawing millions of visitors from the globe. It has been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and remains an important part of the city’s cultural heritage and identity.