What do you get when you mix sculptures made out of wood and plastic, loads of people, kids setting off fireworks, and fire?...well I would give you the answer, but that would be too easy :). Seriously though, it is actually a brilliant festival known as Las Fallas.
Ali and I, accompanied by Ali's Grandma, were able to attend the last day of this festival that takes place in Valencia. Here is a quick history lesson about Las Fallas. The festival was said to have started in 1497 when carpenters, after a long winter of working on their work by flickering candle light that hung from makeshift wooden posts, decided to burn the wooden posts in celebration of warmer weather and longer days. It has evolved over the years to what it is now, which is a spectacular celebration.
When we were planning our spring break, Ali mentioned that we should go see this festival. I didn't really know what it was but it sounded cool. I teach some private english lessons to adults and asked them about it, and they said it was loud and crazy. Then I told them that I was taking Ali's 80 year old grandma to the festival. They responded with surprised looks and the same advice: make sure to get ear plugs.
Once we arrived to our Airbnb in Valencia, which was five or six miles outside of the city center, we heard loud explosions going off. We were told by our host that these thundering festivities had been going for the past 15 days, and that got us very excited to get into the city as soon as possible!
As we got closer and closer to the noises, we started seeing children with these wooden boxes that were tied around their necks. They hung below their chest and gave them a good work station to light fireworks. I've never seen so many little kids lighting off fireworks in my life. Usually an adult is with a child when they light fun, small, sparkly fireworks, but this was not the case. The adults were sitting outside at restaurants chatting with their friends while their kids were lighting off fire crackers, M80's, dynamite...that last one may not be true. However, it was crazy!
After getting used to the explosions going off everywhere, we were met by these massive, colorful sculptures. They are called ninots. These ranged anywhere from six feet to thirty feet tall. They're made of foam, wood, paint, and things that are not good for the environment if you burn them...yikes. Many of the ninots were politically charged and very satirical. They were placed all over the city, which was completely shut down from traffic, and made for an exciting time of exploring the city.
The peak of the festivities started at 10:00 pm. This was the burning of the small ninots (each year, people vote on the best ninot both big and small. The winner is the only one that is not burned to the ground). Airborne fireworks started going off, marching bands were playing, and then a rope with massive explosive fireworks was tied around the ninot setting it aflame! Flames, heat and black smoke poured out of these colorful creations, and only took a couple of minutes for the entire ninot to turn into a smoldering pile of ashes. Part of the tradition is to wear bandanas around your neck so it is easily accessible to cover your nose and mouth because of the smoke. We definitely needed them. Midnight was when the big ninots were burned. The festivities heightened with bigger fireworks, hotter flames and larger piles of ashes left after this amazing spectacle.
We were able to get home at about one in the morning. Although our ears were ringing and our chests felt tight (too much black smoke), it was a great festival. If you ever get a chance to attend, take that chance! Make sure you bring ear plugs and fireworks. It is always better when you you can make noise! Make sure to watch the highlight video of our time! You can also see some of our other adventures from previous posts by scrolling down or clicking the "adventures" tab above! Till next time!