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Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Few Observations on Fallas 2011

Peaceful Plaza
After beginning with the worst weather I have seen during Fallas we have seen the best weather ever for the last two days of the festival. I did a lap around a good part of the city on Valenbisi and I wish I would have put on a little sunscreen. As I was swapping out my bike at a station at the university I happened upon a huge square that was completely deserted and completely quiet—not an easy thing to find at any time and certainly much more difficult during Fallas. I stopped and listened to a bit of my Spanish audio book on my MP3 player. It was a very welcome break from the mayhem.

The crowds this year are absolutely mind-boggling as they are every year. The number of people is the most impressive thing for me about Fallas. My neighborhood of Russafa is positively stuffed to the limit every evening. Huge waves of people wash in and out to see the two major Fallas on Calle Sueca and Calle Cuba. In between and on all of the side streets there are dozens of stands selling for and drinks and most have picnic tables to lure the passersby. The bars and cafés are filled to the brim as well. As if that weren’t enough there all lots of freelancers walking around selling cans of beer for 1€. You can’t walk ten meters without someone pushing a beer in your face.

I don’t understand how they get all the people to man the countless marching bands that parade around the city, and by “countless” I mean that literally—if that makes sense. I mean they are on every block of the city. I just saw one group parade past this café and a minute later another one passed going in the opposite direction. It could have been the same band. In fact it could be the same damn band and they just hump all over tarnation during Fallas although this explanation seems unlikely. Granted, they only play about three tunes so I suppose that the bar to entry in these roving musical gangs. They always look like they are having fun. I missed out on the whole band experience as a kid and I regret it.  

I have actually been taking it easy this year; last night I was home before 4 am.  Yes, getting home at 4 am is considered taking it easy. I also had a good sleep which is not normal for me. Usually we I get in late I wake up at my usual early hour or maybe an hour later. The fireworks last night—the last of Fallas—began at 1:30 am so it’s impossible to have an early night. It always cracks me up to be dragging myself home at some ungodly hour and see children running around like it’s the middle of the day.

I have dubbed our local bar as the casal faller for our group. The casal fallers here are like neighborhood clubhouses where all of the festivities are celebrated. They are like the mafia social clubs of New York but without the assassinations. For the most part Fallas is an incredibly tribal affair with most people staying in their neighborhoods.

Very loud firecrackers are very much a part of Fallas so be warned if you plan to visit. The enormous percussion fireworks display every afternoon in the town square, called La Mascletà, sets the tone for the entire event.  Last night in Calle Tomasos there was a sort of low rent mascletà. It was just three guys tossing really fucking loud firecrackers in the street, one after the other. It was deafening and it went on for at least a half an hour. It was enormously obnoxious yet mesmerizing at the same time.

Today is my favorite day of Fallas and the last. There are hundreds of mascletàs around the city as every neighborhood Falla prepares for the cremà (rhymes with cremation) in the evening. This is when they burn the constructions. So to put it all in review: first they blow shit up and then they burn everything. What’s not to like about that? 

Ironically, one of the best things about Fallas is the day after it finishes. I think that is sort of the point of the festival. They want it to be so completely crazy and extreme so when it’s over it comes as a big relief. On the morning of the 20th of March you wake up to a quiet city again—or as quiet as Valencia can be which compared to most cities isn’t very quiet. No more firecrackers, no more marching bands, just a city that is more peaceful than normal. The good news is that this year the 20th falls on a Sunday so most people are off work. It will be a very welcome rest for everyone. The bad news is that the last night of Fallas falls on a Saturday so it will be another very long night for most people. Most years the last night is a bit on the mellow side as there aren’t any fireworks and no street parties following the fireworks.

Fallas is a fantastic spring ritual and spring is definitely something worth celebrating here in Valencia. I think the proper attitude to have for Fallas is either to accept everything about the festival or get the hell out of town for the week. Complaining about it just shouldn’t be an option.


  1. My first fallas, I cannot wait to sleep, fucking fireworks gonna get shoved where the valencia sun dont shine when if there goin off on Monday

  2. You won't hear firecrackers Sunday morning; it's the unwritten rule of Fallas.


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