Las Fallas is a huge festival, with many different elements. To learn more, read our glossary:
The Junta Central Fallera (or Fallas Central Board) is its governing body and organizes all official events. Every monument is set up by an association called a “comisión fallera” (Fallas Committee), managed by its members, the “Falleros”.
The Fallas Committees are groups in charge of organising and setting up the Fallas Fiesta. They take their names from the intersection of streets or squares where they set up their Fallas monument.
Every year, each Committee appoints its top representative for the Fallas Fiesta: its own “Fallera Mayor”. The other women in the group make up the Court of Honour that accompanies her in the Fallas week’s events. Likewise, each Committee has a Children’s Section, which is represented by its own “Fallera Mayor Infantil”.
At present, there are more than 400 Fallas Committees listed officially in the city of Valencia, and a similar number again scattered all over the Region of Valencia, and the total number of Falleros and Falleras easily surpasses a hundred thousand people.
The two “Falleras Mayores de Valencia” (one adult and one child) are the queens of the fiesta, the official representatives of the entire Fallas organisation. The child selected bears the title of “Fallera Mayor Infantil de Valencia”.
These titles have reached a considerable level of importance and they frequently appear at the city’s most significant events throughout the year.
The enormous number of professionals that depend directly or indirectly on the Fallas Fiesta gives an idea of how large and important it has become for the city.
One of the most interesting places to visit to get a better idea of these artists’ work is the “Ciudad del Artista Fallero”, a number of huge workshops where the Fallas monuments are constructed. The whole year round, it sees a frenzy of ongoing work and it is common to find dozens of curious onlookers, interested in seeing for themselves how a Falla is made.
Apart from the “artista fallero”, there are other professions associated directly with the fiesta: there are regional shops, jewellers, hairdressers specialized in the Valencian hairstyle, shoe shops, textile factories (particularly those making silk), and fireworks manufacturers.
Falla is the name given to each one of the gigantic, sculpted structures of cardboard, wood and sometimes cork, which humorously portray events and personalities.
Every monument has a subject-matter, or general theme. On that basis, the artist plays with intentions and ideas, using the subject as a pretext to portray what he or she wants to say.
Even though they are colossal monuments (they can exceed 20 metres in some cases), the most spectacular thing about the Fallas is the way they combine sculpture, carpentry, engineering, painting and, in particular, creativity and humour.
A Falla does not only consider style, composition and modelling. A fundamental role is also played by ingenuity and humour. These are the Fallero terms to define the wit and irony of the artists or writers who devise a monument, when portraying the most significant current events or ferociously criticizing what they consider most deserves it.
The Fallas monuments are distributed in sections, according to their size and budget (costs can range from €6,000 to €600,000).
The ninots are the individual figures that make up the scenes in the Fallas monuments. At the beginning of February, each Committee donates its best ninot to an exhibition that is open to the public up until the day of the plantà (see below) when each figure is collected by its Committee and taken back to the Fallas monument it belongs to on a noisy and colourful parade with whistles and brass bands.
Each visitor to this exhibition has the chance to vote for the ninot that he or she likes best: whether because of its originality or its design. When the time comes to close the exhibition, the votes are added up and the ninot with the largest number of votes is saved from the flames: this ninot indultat will have the honour of being the only ninot in all of Valencia that will not burn on the night of the 19th.
La Crida marks the official opening of the Fallas Festival. Crowds of onlookers and all the Fallas Committees gather beneath the Serranos Towers, one of historical Valencia’s best-known monuments, usually on the last Sunday in February.
After a spectacular inaugural display of light, sound, music and fireworks, the “Fallera Mayor” of Valencia (elected festival queen), surrounded by her Court of Honour and the city authorities, invites everyone to enjoy the imminent fiesta, proclaiming its excellence and virtues.
This refers to the act of waking up the neighbourhood. How? Very simple: by setting off hundreds of firecrackers first thing in the morning. The “Falleros” come out into the streets at dawn, armed with a kind of local firecracker known as “tró de bac”, which has no fuse and is set off by throwing it at the ground, making a very loud bang.
Like a concert of gunpowder: pyrotechnicians carefully study the rhythm of firework sequences, launches and whistles, combining them in a spectacular crescendo that concludes with the “terremoto” (earthquake): hundreds of “masclets” exploding on the ground simultaneously.
The City Council of Valencia organizes a calendar of “mascletaes” from the 1st of March to St. Joseph’s Day (19th March), at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the city’s urban centre. At 2pm thousands and thousands of people congregate there, every day.
Read part two later this week!!