• 01/04/2006

Valencia, a welcoming city

The Fallas festivity is one of Valencia´s main tourist attractions,bringing in about one million visitors every year. Although there are various theories as to the origin of Fallas, it is now well known that it started in the early 18th Century. One of those theories explains that the origin of the festivity is attributed to carpenters who, during the winter, lit their workshops with a rustic wooden lamp called "parot". On the eve of St Joseph´s Day, as the days were getting longer and the lamp was no longer necessary, the artisans had a proper spring cleaning and burned the traditional "parot" at their workshop door. These fires were fed with wood shavings, useless pieces of wood and old bits and pieces provided by the neighbours. The shape of the "parot", vertical with wooden arms, encouraged people to hang old clothes and hats from it, giving it a human appearance. Thus the Ninot was born.

Fallas are the major festivity in the city of Valencia. Known the world over, they have been declared of International Tourist Interest. They are dedicated to St Joseph and each year announce the arrival of spring. From 15 to 19 March, over 700 cardboard or polyurethane monuments built on wooden structures inundate the city streets. Art, humour and satire combine in these depictions of characters and scenes from daily life which are purified by fire on the night of St Joseph. During that week Valencia becomes a welcoming city wich is visited every year by thousands of people determined to enjoy this unique festivity.

At the end of the19th Century prizes to the best fallas were established and that encouraged the production of aesthetically acceptable monuments. From 1920 onwards, other events were added to the Fallas festivity, which no longer consisted of just setting up and burning a monument: this gaverise to the Fallas Week (Semana Fallera).

The "mascletaes" start at the City Hall Square (Plaza del Ayuntamiento) on 1 March, and from that day onwards until the 19th the noise of firecrackers announces the arrival of Fallas, though the most significant events start on the15th with the traditional Fallas "plantà".

As well as the setting up of the Fallas monuments, there are numerous related leisure activities, such as "despertàs", firework displays, street dances, an important bullfighting fair, parades, exhibitions, paella making competitions etc. The Flower Offering to the Virgen de los Desamparados on 17 and 18 March is the best attended and most spectacular of all Fallas events as it brings together all "falleros" round the city´s patron Virgin and millions of flowers adorn the Virgin´s cloak in the square that bears her name.

At midnight on 19 March all Fallas are burnt during the "cremà", except for a single ninot which has been previously selected. This event concludes the Valencia festivity of this year and marks the starting point of the preparation for next year´s celebrations.