Feria de Falles – Valencia (March 2014)

Feria de Falles Valencia

The first time we arrived in Valencia, it was a beautiful spring morning. It was the beginning of March and the city was in the middle of a very popular Feria which takes place every year from February to March and brings along more than 3 million tourists from all over the world.

We had no idea what to expect from this Feria de Falles, but the taxi driver who took us from the port to the centre told us to prepare for a very special and ‘crazy’ day.

Feria de Falles begins in February and, during a 4-5 week period, brings lots of parties, parades, fireworks and fire crackers shows, beauty contests, photo exhibitions and some other interesting events on the streets of the city. The Feria ends on the 19th of March (the dates change slightly every year) with some incredible and huge fires in the most important squares of Valencia, where thousands of people cheer and cry out loud the coming of spring and the revival of nature. The Feria is an annual celebration and it was first held 75 years ago. It is a celebration of joy and revival of nature and it became a tourist attraction only few years ago when its duration extended from few days to 5 weeks.

The most interesting and funny elements of this Feria de Falles are Mascletas (firecrackers shop), the parade of Falleras and the big fires of Falles which are closing the event, on the last day of the celebration.

We were lucky enough to come to Valencia twice during this period of time and we had the possibility of joining the crowds in their celebrations on the street.

As I was about to find out later, these Mascletas were held by different associations every day and every show had been prepared and directed in advance by people in charge. All of them took place at the same time – according to the schedule – and in the same place – Plaça del Ayuntamiento – in front of a noisy and happy audience which occupied the Plaça more than one hour prior to the beginning.

On the 7th of March we witnessed for the first time in our lives a noisy firecracker show. We had never attended anything like this before, so we didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in front of the City Hall, which was now the scene of this important event. It was not the first show of this kind because many identical and all the same noisy shows had been held since the beginning of the Feria – one every other day and even more frequently towards the closing of the event, but all taking place at the same hour and in the same place.

Valencia - Placa del Ajuntamiento

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Mascleta (1)

With a little luck, we managed to post ourselves in a very good position from where we witnessed the 10 minute show together with other few thousands cheering people, mostly locals. The most exciting and touching moment of the show was when all the crowds joined their voices along with the one which was coming from the huge speakers singing a traditional Valencian song. Seeing all the people around us singing with so much pathos about their beloved territory – Valencia, la tierra de los flores – I started to feel very moved myself and very happy at the same time for being part of this event.

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Mascleta (2)

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Mascleta (3)

When the music stopped the sound of hundreds of firecrackers burst out in the air, crashing and banging into my ears and the sky was suddenly covered with clouds of smoke, some of them colored in red, blue or yellow. The crowds started to scream and they continued to do so for the whole period of the show, rising the level of noise to the highest possible. I was quite amazed to see all the people around me – young and old alike – screaming from the top of their lungs and clapping their hands so hard that I hardly managed to understand what was happening.

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Mascleta (5)

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Mascleta (4)

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Mascleta (6)

As soon as the firecrackers ceased to explode, the same traditional music took its place and filled the air, sending the crowds into a state of excitement close to delirium. All of a sudden, they didn’t care about the policemen and the protective barriers which had been placed there for their own safety and started to run towards the middle of the street for what was about to be the final cheer of the event. The crowd exploded again in shouts of excitement, support and appreciation when the person who had been in charge with the show took his place in the balcony of the City Hall, among the beautiful women and girls who represented the ‘queens’ of the Feria – the Falleras – all dressed up in beautiful traditional costumes.

Valencia Mascleta - Falleras

Falleras in the balcony of City Hall Feria de Falles Valencia

Thousands of photos were taken and thousands of people were singing together the traditional song about Valencia – the most beautiful place on Earth – and its inhabitants – the friendliest and most loving people in the world.

I was very happy to take part in such a wonderful celebration…

Valencia - Feria de Falles

… and I was lucky enough to come back into the city on the 19th of March, the last day of this Feria de Falles.

The other two elements of the Feria de Falles are the ‘Falleras’ –  the ‘queens’ of the celebrations and the ‘Falles’ – the big mascots.

Belonging to all the neighborhoods of the city, the Falleras are chosen among women and girls and have the role of representing their neighborhoods in all the manifestations which make up the celebration. They are dressed in traditional dresses and spend their day walking around the city, taking part in official meetings and supervising the well being of the celebration. They are also the main part of the parade which takes place in the last day of the Feria.

Feria de Falles Valencia - Falleras

Valencia - Feria de Falles (2)

Valencia - Feria de Falles (1)

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Falleras (2)

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Falleras (1)

On the 19th of March, we arrived in town in the evening and we were quite amazed by the huge crowds which were flowing from everywhere and heading towards the centre. We had read something about the last night of Feria and we were very excited to witness the final part of this interesting yet curious celebration. The presentation booklet gave us a strict schedule of all the events that were about to happen that night with the hours and places of interest. We read there about the huge fires which were about to break out in the major squares of the city where huge mascots were to be burnt at stake, but we couldn’t imagine what was about to happen at midnight. We only knew that every neighborhood had two mascots – one for adults and another for children – representing all kind of characters and the first most beautiful ten mascots from each category (adults and kids) had the ‘privilege’ of burning at midnight. I didn’t quite understand the notion of ‘burning’ and I couldn’t believe that these wonderful works of art would eventually end up in aches, but it looked like exactly this was about to happen and people would actually be happy for it. I was determined to see as many mascots as possible before the fatal time of 23.30 and I couldn’t help myself from noticing that a few hundreds people had the same intention. They were all running up and down the streets, from one square to another, taking photos and moving along towards another square and another mascot.

We started our ‘hunt’ in Plaça del Ayuntamiento, where a huge mascot was placed just in the middle of the street. Representing a God who was sitting on a pile of books, this mascot was more than 30 meter high and it was the most important of the Feria.

Valencia - Feria de Falles - Falles Placa del Ajuntamiento

Each mascot was created by local artists and sponsored by the people living in the neighborhood. The richer the neighborhood, the bigger and more beautiful the mascot was. And for this reason, the Mascot which was placed in front of the City Hall was the most important of all. It was to burn exactly at midnight and it did not take part in the competition.

Step by step, we covered the whole centre, admiring more than 10 pairs of mascots – for adults and children. All of them gathered together a wonderful display of characters – some happy, others sad, some belonging to the world of fairy tales or to the world of the circus – an amazing proof of human imagination put up in the name of art – a different kind of art, but nevertheless impressive and  overwhelming. All the adult Falles were more than 20-25 meters high and the children Falles were between 5 and 10 meters high.

Feria de Falles Valencia

Valencia Feria de Falles - Falles Infantiles (1)

Valencia Feria de Falles - Falles Infantiles (2)

Valencia Feria de Falles - Falles Infantiles (3)

Valencia Feria de Falles - Falles Infantiles (4)

Valencia Feria de Falles - Falles Infantiles (5)

Before visiting the three most important mascots (the top three), we went to the Bullfight Arena where a colorful parade was in progress and hundreds of people were cheering and applauding the performers – street dancers, acrobats, singing bands, funny and ‘scary’ characters, most of them lighting up their way with torches and dancing flames. At the end of the parade, came the Falleras – all waving, smiling and blowing kisses towards the audience. They were all wearing their beautiful dresses very proudly and they let themselves being photographed in thousand and thousands of photos during the parade between Plaça Colon and Porta del Mar.

Feria de Falles - Parade (1)

Feria de Falles - Parade (2)

Feria de Falles - Parade (3)

Feria de Falles - Parade (4)

Feria de Falles - Parade (5)

 

Feria de Falles - Parade (6)

 

Feria de Falles - Parade (7)

Feria de Falles - Parade (8)

Feria de Falles - Parade (9)

Feria de Falles - Parade (10)

We continued our adventure and hurried to see the remaining mascots – which had been voted as the most beautiful mascots of the Feria. – and we found them even more impressive than the others and we couldn’t do anything else but agreed with the verdict of the jury.

Valencia - Falles - Feria de Falles (2)

Valencia - Falles - Feria de Falles (3)

We spent more than half an hour admiring the huge display of characters which made up the mascot from Plaça Pilar. It was the winner of the competition and it really deserved its place. I tried in vain to photograph the huge assembly of characters, but I only could capture it piece by piece.

Valencia Feria de Falles - 1 st place (4)

Valencia Feria de Falles - 1 st place (1)

Valencia Feria de Falles - 1 st place (2)

Valencia Feria de Falles - 1 st place (3)

After finishing with all the mascots, I really wanted to end the night before witnessing their total destruction, but, as few thousands people were determined to stay on and witness the final moment of the Feria, we did the same.

The fires started at 10 p.m and 20 mascots were totally burnt until 1 a.m when the last fire was scheduled.

Valencia Feria de Falles -Burning the Falles infantiles (1)

Valencia Feria de Falles -Burning the Falles infantiles (2)

Valencia Feria de Falles -Burning the Falles infantiles (3)

The most important mascot of all – the one placed in Placa del Ajuntamiento – burst into fire at 1 a.m and the moment was cheered by thousands of people who had been waiting in front of the City Hall and on all the surrounding streets. The huge ‘God’ was ‘eaten’ by flames in less than 10 minutes and it was accompanied by hundreds of nosy firecrackers and colourful fireworks.

Feria de Falles Valencia - Burning the Falles (1)

Feria de Falles Valencia - Burning the Falles (2)

Feria de Falles Valencia - Burning the Falles (3)

Feria de Falles Valencia - Burning the Falles (4)

Feria de Falles Valencia - Burning the Falles (6)

At the end, when everything was turned into a big pile of ashes, I couldn’t understand the happiness and enthusiasm of all the people around us who were very excited and eager to continue the party elsewhere and they were all moving towards their homes, in big and noisy groups.

After such a big display of fires and flames, I thought that the city could never look the same, but the hardworking people in charge with cleaning worked all night long and brought everything back to normal.

IF

Valencia - Burning ground Feria de Falles

Valencia - after Feria de Falles

The next morning, only few proofs of the previous night could be found ‘printed’ deep in the asphalt where the mascots once stood and the city was amazingly clean and ‘fresh’.

IMG_4951

We went to Plaça de la Virgen to admire the beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary – a 20 meter tall statue made entirely of red and white carnations. The square was still full of people and I could hardly manage to photograph the whole structure which was standing in the middle of the crowd.

Valencia Placa de la Virgen - Feria de Falles

We are very happy we took part in this celebration and hope to return to Valencia and witness other Fiestas and Ferias in the future. I am sure the city will find the right way to surprise us and I am looking forward to discovering it again.

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