Festive Pyre: Las Fallas Festival

Festival Essentials

Where: Valencia, Spain
When: 3rd week of March
Happenings: Burning giant paper mache effigies
Remember to bring: Lots of old newspapers and a match

Where It’s At

Las Fallas is a boisterous seven-day festival in the province of Valencia, Spain that culminates on 19 March every year, on the feast day of San Jose.

What Happens at Las Fallas?

Valencia’s biggest festival is a riotous week of celebration, with a myriad of larger-than-life effigies, firework and firecracker displays that light up the streets of the Spanish town. The main attractions of the festival are undoubtedly the fallas – colourful papier-mâché figures, often satirical in nature, that are built in the city streets.

Figures of historical and contemporary politicians and actors are commonly depicted in the fallas and the artists often make use of the opportunity to depict a point of view, in a humorous and almost child-like fashion. Saddam Hussein, George Bush and Tony Blair were tossed onto the pyre in 2003. Over 700 of these papier-mâché monuments, some stretching to 60ft in height, are adored by festival goers over the week and are burnt to a cinder on the last night, the Night of Fire.

The tradition of burning the fallas came from an age old practice where carpenters would accumulate their wood shavings into huge bonfires as a tribute to San Jose, the patron saint of carpenters.

The first falla is set alight at precisely 10pm on the final night. Don’t miss the burning of the main falla in the town centre at 1am. As you can imagine, it is the busiest night for the Spanish fire fighters who keep the massive flames under control.

Valencians, being world renowned for their fireworks, spare no expense as the sky is lit with a brilliant fireworks extravaganza almost every night. The Las Fallas is truly a festival for the senses, and it guarantees to leave you with a incessant ringing in your ears and a smile of your face.