20 Mar 2010

Fallas en Valencia!

So yesterday, San José a.k.a. March 19th, was the culmination of one of the biggest fiestas in Spain: las Fallas in Valencia. You remember my posts last June about the Hogueras (introductory post here)? The big carton-cardboard-wood-painted sculptures displayed all over town depicting (often satirically) the current events of the past year that are then burnt down on the night of the feast of Saint John? Ok, well think pretty much the same thing... but BIGGER! The budget for the Fallas in Valencia is much higher than that in Alicante, and they don't have a limitation on height... The style is different too. Where the Hogueras are like cartoons based on simplified characteristics of the figures (kind of streamlined, more geometric shapes), the Fallas have a tendency to exaggerate characteristics (sometimes a bit bufoonish, and curvier). Am I explaining myself right? Does that make sense to you? Maybe a few pictures will help:

Hogueras 2009, Alicante

Fallas 2008, Valencia

The figure on the left in this Falla is Rita Barbera, the mayor of Valencia. Note the exaggerated features (particularly the scary teeth!).

Basically a Falla in Valencia (and surrounding towns) = an Hoguera in Alicante (and surrounding towns). Similar traditions, different dates!

Oh, but since Valencia has more money... they also have a tendency to go a bit more "all out" in the "street lights" competition! ;o)
Concurso de Luces, Fallas 2008, Valencia

Stylistically I prefer the ones in Valencia. I think they're usually visually stunning, with lots of elements hidden here and there, and I've noticed that my favourite Hogueras in Alicante are usually ones that are closer to the Valencia style than the Alicante style! Subjects of the monuments are quite similar (politicians, pop culture figures, metaphores for economic-social-political problems etc.). But as a fiesta I think Alicante does a much better job! For starters they have the advantage of the weather (June vs March, no competition!), which allows for most of the "Barracas" to be street affairs instead of the "Casals Fallers" which indoors in small locals, so you get a lot more music and party atmosphere in the street. Next, in March in Valencia it can be very cold, but when you visit the Fallas you end up sweating your ass off in the throngs of people as there are a lot more tourists and the streets are narrower (most of the best ones are in the old neighbourhood). In the past decade or so young people have started insulting firemen on the "Nit de la Cremà" when everything gets burnt down, the same way we do in Alicante to provoke them into hosing us down to cool off. Well that's fine in June at 25ºC, but in March?!?!? brrr!!!

Here are a few shots of the Grand Prize winner for 2008 - Nou Campanar -, fortunately for me just a couple blocks away from my Grandmother's house! ;o) Unfortunately I don't seem to have gotten a shot that will give an idea of just how big this thing was! :p
glimpse through the trees
frontal view
zooming-in on the "grandfather"
view from the "back"
arrrrrrrgh! watch out for the ogre!

My mom (who lived in Valencia for 10 years as a teenager) likes to complain about how much the fiesta has changed (for the worse of course), how it was more "popular" (as in "for the people" and less touristic), that anyone could join in the party, whereas now to enter a Casal you have to be a member of that Falla or with a friend who is. One complaint I do agree with her about, is that the big Fallas now charge a (not too cheap) entry fee to be able to see them up close. Ugh!

I've been to the Fallas several times (first time in the early '80s, don't remember anything! last time 2 years ago with friends) since my grandparents and a couple of aunts and cousins live in Valencia. Something like this is always more fun when you have people to go out with to visit the Fallas and to dance the night away! ;o) I wouldn't have gone this year even if my foot hadn't been cranky since all of the holiday (except last night) has been during the week. They set the Fallas up on Monday and burnt them last night (the 19th). But it has got me excited and looking forward to June 21-24! ;o) If you'd like to see some videos and photos of this year's Fallas there are quite a few here.

If you want to see it all burn again, here's the post for la Noche de San Juan 2009! ;o)


  1. Cool post, Cris! Tell me, how do you get the captions under the pictures? I'ved tried everything and cannot figure it out!

  2. It's even cooler to live through it all live! ;o)

    For the captions you need to start writing or editing your posts through the Blogger-in-draft dashboard. Then once you've imported your photo into the text of your post you click on it (like for the sizes) and it will appear among the options just beneath the shot: small, medium, large, XL, right, centre, left, add caption...
    Just click on add caption and the words "add caption" will appear written in the blog zone just under the photo, change that text to what you want as a caption and, Voilà! done! :o)

  3. One of these days, I will become rich and fly over to party with you just once... You seem to find all the cool spots!

    I do hate the thought of all that fantastic art going up in flames, but it's such a great festival!

  4. Wonderful photos...smiles

  5. One of these days when I become rich I will spend a whole year going from town to town in Spain blogging about the wonderful diversity of fiestas that abound throughout the Peninsula and the two archipelagos! ;o)

    And Lily, I can definitely say I've participated in some very cool parties! "Coolest" (temperature-wise) was a New Year's Eve on a ship heading into the icebergy waters of the Antarctic! Trying dancing rock&roll on a rocking boat when you've had plenty of wine, champagne and rhum punch! And then discovered that lead to 5s of glory in a documentary on French national television! :p I'm going to have to find that doc and figure how to extract the clip for my 5s of frozen-fiesta fame... ;o)


Hey there! Yes you! The quiet one in the back... I'd love it if you hung out for a bit and shared your thoughts!

I might stop by your place with an answer, but I'm more likely to reply right here so click on "email follow up comments" if you'd like to see what I and others have to say and come continue the conversation! ;o)