Saturday, April 9, 2011

Las Fallas

On the 19th of March, Carissa, Mary, Chris, and I headed to Valencia.  We rented a car and cruised through the perfect weather midday of Castilla La Mancha and over the hills of la Comunidad Valenciana until we arrived at the lovely sea-side town.  Valencia is a beautiful city, the third largest in Spain, but we were not going there to visit the city.  We were going for the festival of Las Fallas, which features street musicians, fair food, and people dressed in traditional garb, such as this adorable child.

The main reason to attend Las Fallas, however, is not the traditional costumes or food, but for the Fallas themselves.  The Fallas are giant sculptures made of wood and wax, elaborately painted and often featuring satirical or political themes.  The festival originally started as a carpenters' festival, since it takes place on St. Joseph's saint day.  They would take the leftover wood, decorate it, and then burn the sculptures.  Over the years the festival developed into what it is today, with hundreds of sculptures being made by different clubs in each neighborhood.  Each club makes a large and a small sculpture.  The small sculptures are usually directed at children and feature whimsical themes and cartoon characters, while the larger sculptures are definitely political in nature, often featuring government figures and sexual themes.  Some of the large sculptures are up to 30 meters (100 or so feet) tall, all are intricately detailed and delicately balanced, and many are simply gorgeous.

And then, at midnight, as a band plays and fireworks light up the sky, they line the sculptures with firecrackers and burn them to the ground in a fiery conflagration barely contained by a few firemen with hoses.  It's pagan and delightful, if a little sad, too.  It's really amazing to think that so many people spend so much time and money on things that are going to be burned.  But what really lasts in the end?

 large Fallas

 small Fallas

 The Fallas are beautiful, weird, and detailed.

 Some Fallas also feature chickens.

 This is the Falla that was built in the main square to celebrate athleticism.  
It was over 25 meters (82 feet) tall.

 Cat Falla

 An octopus climbing out of a book, eeeek!

 This light-up pathway leads to the winning Falla, which is spared from being burnt.

 This was the winning Falla.  I especially liked the two dogs running away from the little kids on the left and the hunted animals hiding on the hat.

This is the Falla we watched burn.

 The firecrackers go off as the firemen prepare.

 Fire!  I ended the night totally covered in soot and ash.

After watching some more Fallas and getting some snacks, we took the most round-about route possible back to the car, where we rested for a bit before driving to watch the sun rise over the Mediterranean.  I must admit I only saw a bit of purple haze, as I was falling asleep in the back seat.  We slept in the car a bit more, then it was back to Madrid!


1 comment:

Dad said...

As much as I like a huge barely controlled fire it's a shame to burn such beautiful work, Another nice memory for the files. Love ya, Dad xoxo