The one who baptized Paris as «The city of light» had never been in Valencia, but arrived at this point, it would be fair to rename the cities. In addition, Paris has already the epithet of «The city of love» and the pretentious medium-sized city where I was born has made enough merit to be attributed the nickname, although it should not be seen as something positive.
For several decades it was a common joke that Rita Barberá, mayor for more than twenty years in Valencia, should had a lamp-maker cousin, because it was very difficult to walk ten steps without running into a lamp, sometimes lighted well into the morning. But the light pollution, one of the highest in Europe (the largest in Spain) is accentuated exponentially during the week of Fallas, the Fiesta Mayor of that peculiar city, as well-known that I am going to omit in what consists to just narrate how they must be lived and which precautions one must take.
The Fallas, as such, begin with the Cridà (the Calling), the proclamation that, on the last Sunday of February, marks the inauguration of the fallera season. And although it is the first excuse of the year that have the falleros to get drunk and take the city as Jaume I did in the thirteenth century, the truth is that if in this act misses Barberá (she died in strange circumstances in 2016), which used to get on Serrano Towers with more brandy in the stomach that the doctors usually recommend (her speech of 2015, full of political incorrectness and kicks to the dictionary, is specially famous), the day is somewhat insipid, so let’s move to the salsa.
From the 1st of March there are Mascletàs at two o’clock every afternoon in the City Hall Square, a Mascletà is something similar to a drill terrorist attack that sometimes has a rhythm of Mozart‘s opera or Mahler‘s symphony. In each of these pyrotechnic events, an average of 250 kilos of gunpowder are used. But I am explaining what the Fallas are and that was not my intention. So, I will also omit, that the morning of the 15th, the city dawns with some 200 Fallas’ monuments and with half the streets cut, and that at night the ninots have already doubled in number and size (we talked about the Plantà of the Great Falla, since the Children’s one is valued a day before), which are the fiugres that make up these improvised sculptures that will burn in just a few days.
The important thing is that on 15th of March, which in 2019 falls on Friday, not only one can walk around the city watching Fallas, throwing «chinos» and «bombetes» (the lower-powered firecrackers), but that night verbenas and disco-mobiles begins in casals fallers. The party begins. Although if we are frank, the previous weekend there is already some of these events, known among the juvenile slang as «Pre-Fallas» where the kids put the liver to the point although the following week there are still classes.
16th and 17th, more or the same
There are, like everything, a thousand ways to live Las Fallas, you can try to take the bike and quietly walk the most impressive monuments (you can check the Special Section fallas on the Map), but do not expect that your calm infects the environment, because the most normal thing is the opposite: the Fallas are, above all: noise. The sound pollution exceeds the light one, the firecrackers are heard 24 hours a day (inform you of the madness that is the Despertá, I did not come here to scandalize) and the crowd, with their screams, their cries and their impudence veto the silence during these five days. The Fallas are, with their limitations (the music, out of respect for the neighbors, must stop at four in the morning, when in most village parties it lasts until dawn), a party of excess, and therefore, trying to put out fires may not be the best option. I recommend, call me a coward: to run away. It is not strange that Valencian who can, flee the city during these days, tired of hearing potential bombs at all hours.
The correct plan to live the Fallas happens then to go out late every night, to have breakfast with pumpkin fritters or churros at five in the morning, to sleep little, to wander like a zombie during the day, and return to the old ones around midnight. There are two collectives that have learned the lesson well, one is the falleros (animal species made of another paste, whose vital goal passes by bothering others, staying up late and, until recently, voting to the right), the other collective are the musicians that play in Fallas, capable of being 72 hours followed drunk of which sleep less than 10 and play in a loop 15 of those pasodobles hours and other popular songs.
The night of Fallas can leave beautiful images: fights with clean punch between children of good birth, Americans with an arm of BuzzLightyear trying to conquer the infinite (this has been seen by my eyes), 9-year-old boys lighting firecrackers the size of their head, first degree burns (consequence of the above), throwing firecrackers to the DJ (for complaining that they were throwing in the stalls). But that these images do not confuse you, the Fallas are, above all, the ideal place to degrade yourself as a person.
The act par excellence of the falleros and the musicians, which are organized in small bands called charangas, is neither the Plantà nor the Cremà, but the Ofrendà a la verge (the Offering to the Virgin), because Catholicism is getting lost and the Fallas are in their origins a profane festivity (even though actually are also known as the festivities of Saint Joseph), but it is never a bad occasion to mourn to the Virgin for seeing her so beautiful.
On the 17th and the 18th, all the Fallas commissions parade in turns from all corners of Valencia to the Plaça de la Verge (where one of the doors of the cathedral is located, the gothic one), to offer flowers to the Virgin, which has his own statue more than fifteen meters high, which is gradually covered by a red and white mantle of roses, carnations and geraniums.
La Nit del Foc (the Fire’s night)
In a clear example of the law of inverse proportionality, as the resistance to alcohol and noise decreases, the fireworks castles that are fired in the River Park increase, becoming longer and more beautiful. By the time we get to day 18th, known as the Nit del Foc (I laugh of the Bonfire Night’s performances) the pyrotechnics lasts about half an hour.
It is advisable to go down to the river to see it, it is not entirely safe, because it is quite dark and people take to throw “drunks” (some firecrackers that release sparks while moving in random directions to finally explode) sometimes even from the bridges themselves. But contemplating such a feat from the field is wonderful.
When I was in 10th grade in Dartmouth Academy, Mr. Print, my English teacher, confessed to the class that the year he came to the Fallas was almost until dawn looking for the car after the cremà because he had taken as reference the fallas themselves, now turned into ashes. The anecdote seemed fun (I laughed until the tears), but incredible, parking the car in Fallas (parked it well, I mean) is almost impossible, so I imagine that in addition to a fine would see burn one of the Fallas of the suburbs.
To the 6 tips that Holly Smith gives us in this post to survive the Fallas (among which we should add not to take the car), I recommend another trick to enjoy the Fallas until the end. Go to see burn one of the faults of the center, which happens at midnight, if it’s posible the Merced’s or the Pilar’s falla, that being large structures located in small squares, the effect is more impressive. In these burnings, the crowd piles up at the crossroads that overlook the square and enjoy the show while uttering songs of praise to the firemen, who do everything possible to keep the fire as far as possible to the adjacent buildings, protected with tarps of insulating materials.
When finished, if you still have energy, do not hesitate to approach the City Hall Square and see burn the last of the fallas, the great City Council one, which represents from the Moses of Michelangelo to Laurel and Hardy.
The Fallas do not belong to Valencia, Valencia is due to the Fallas. Who else who less, everyone who lives in the Valencia for a long period is imbued by the spirit of this festival as polluting as absorbing. And I do not talk about the falleros, that on 21st of March are already with the countdown to the next Fallas, but of the figure of the father (mine and that of many friends, we have it spoken) that openly abhorring the Fallas, they go down the next week to the nearest piece of waste ground to throw the last masclets, with a melancholy appearance, before the scandalous noise returns to not being seen with good eyes.