World Languages Cultural Corner: Las Fallas

This article was last modified on March 1st, 2021.

An interesting European celebration that has been postponed this pandemic year is the festival of fire known as Las Fallas which is held each March in the Mediterranean coastal city of Valencia, Spain. Legend states that the Falles celebration began with the old Valencian carpenter’s tradition of burning pieces of wood that were no longer needed. The pieces were stacked and safely lit on fire, usually in the outskirts of town. With time, however, the tradition included adding old belongings and clothing to these bonfires which gave the wooden structures a human looking aspect, and eventually they began burning the “ninots” that we know today. Ninots are huge statues made out of cardboard, wood, paper-mache and plaster. In fact, these figures are remarkably lifelike and usually depict improper, satirical scenes that poke fun at politicians or current events. Moreover, the ninots are proudly built and displayed in different neighborhoods throughout the city where tourists and locals alike flock to admire them. The result is a carnival-like atmosphere in every corner of Valencia with nightly parties, the burning of ninots, and dazzling firework shows. Voting takes place and the grand prize winner of the ninots is spared throughout the festival until the final night when the biggest firework display and burning takes place in the center of the city. The Falles celebrations have evolved into temporary works of art which, in some cases, cost millions of euros.

Note: Burning objects is neither safe nor encouraged! This is a unique festival that has taken place for centuries and is supervised by local authorities. Do not try this at home!

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