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Fallas Essentials

Everything you need to know about Fallas

Buñuelos and Chocolate
Chocolate con Churros is a favourite with the Spanish. Churros are long sugared pieces of deep fried dough, rather like doughnuts in flavour that are best eaten dunked in a rich thick dark hot chocolate drink. Buñuelos are a variation traditionally made just for Fallas - they are round and come plain - or stuffed with pumpkin or figs. There are stalls on virtually every street corner during Fallas selling them. Expect to pay around 6€ a dozen (docena)

It's nothing to walk down a Valencian street during Fallas to find it lined with people cooking Paellas. These are usually Paella competitions - with official tasters judging the best of the night. This must be a very hard task as every Paella cooked by friends we have ever eaten has always been judged the best by all who are eating it. The traditional Valencian Paella is Chicken and rabbit, with Garrofa beans (a type of runner bean) Broad beans and occasionally artichokes. It is cooked over orange wood.

Horchata and Fartons
Horchata is a delicious (non alcoholic) sweet milky drink made from tiger nuts. It is extremely refreshing drunk ice cold and is also very good for your digestive system, your bones, and your general well being. The tiger nuts are rich in Omega 7 and are grown in the fields to the north of the city. There are some wonderful Horchaterias (horchata bars) in the old town, notably Santa Catalina just off the Plaza de la Reina. Oh, and Fartons? They are long sticky buns, served warm, that you dunk in your horchata. mmmmm!

This is an early morning alarm call, by fireworks and marching bands. Usually at around eight am in the morning a parade consisting of men carrying loud bangers which they let off down the streets and are accompanied by a marching band playing rousing music. If you happen to live in the centre of a village or in the city you will have probably only just gone to bed when these delightful men let of firecrackers and more in your doorway!

Petardos etc
Petardos are bangers, simple as that. You will not be able to escape them, though there could be a few less this year as EU has reared its ugly head and they are raising the age limit for use of them...

The name given to the nightly fireworks held during fallas.15th at 24hrs 16th and 17th at 1am. All these are let off from the Alameda, the space between Puente Exposion (comb bridge) and the Puente de Flores (flower bridge). One needs to start getting a good position a good 1/2 hour before. Check the wind direction before deciding where you watch from! This, like Mascletà is one event the Valencians get on time, so don't be late, they can last anything from 15 to 30 minutes, and are always fantastic.

Nit de Foc
The last fireworks of Fallas held on the Alameda, it is held at 1.30am on the 18th (so actually it's the early  hours of the 19th) this should be the biggest and the best, but get down to them all and you can be the judge! Read Castillo for directions.

These are the most extraordinary of all the firework events and if you are interested get to see one quick before the EU get its mits on these,  because it won´t be long before new health and safety regulations ban them!

Basically it's a human firework fight. Men (who now where special protective overalls - but that's only very recent) each holding huge fireworks resembling what most English would call a roman candle, they run around at each other in a sort of fight!

The one during Fallas takes place on the 19th at 19.00h, though it is rather more sedate and calls itself the Cabalgata de Fuego (Procession of fire) starting from C/ Russafa along C/Colon and finishing at Puerta del Mar.

The very worst and most dangerous and crazy of these is held in Paterna later in the year when the guys are actually caged in!! Come back to us for more info later on for that one. 

A verbena is an outdoor party, with or without food, held on the eve of a Saint's day, As every day has a saint this could easily be true! 

During Fallas there are verbenas every night all over the city, all the Casals hold them and many of the drink companies , such as Amstel join forces with casals to hold huge verbanas with live DJS and or bands.

When they are held in the maquees they are usually private affairs and you need to be invited to join in, but more often than not they are held in the street, the bars and music are for everyone and are jolly good fun.

If you want to be really Valencian, get yourself a blusón and scarf. The Blusón is an overshirt, said to originate from England in the 19th century, usually black or a denim blue, it is worn with a blue and white checked neck scarf.

A Fallera is a female of any age, who wears the traditional fallera outfit (usually handed down through many generations and adjusted along the way), To start from fresh can cost up to 6,000 euros and sometimes more. There is a whole industry manufacturing the intricate and beautiful fabrics and producing all the accessories, not to mention the specialist hairdressers who have to perfect the hair every day, attaching matching pieces and all the jewellery. Each fallera belongs to a ¨casal¨ and each Casal chooses its Fallera Mayor (aged over 14) and the Fallera Mayor Infantil (under 14). It's a huge honour and not necessary based on beauty, they represent their casal performing many duties all year so have to be available and confident to perform their tasks.

A Fallera Mayor and Fallera Mayor Infantil of Valencia have the enormous honour of being chosen from all the Casals in the Community. Not only do they oversee virtually all the major events of Fallas (and have their own appointed 'court' ) but they also have a very high profile job all year. They act as Public Relations ambassadors for Valencia on many occasions, even travelling abroad promoting the community and have to take a year out of uni/ work to fulfill their job properly.

The punishing timetable during Fallas means it is likely these two only get  a few hours sleep in the whole month!

A man or boy who has chosen to dress in costume for fiestas, the costume varies more than the womens in that you can choose any period of dress. Again as with the women being a fallero isn´t just for Fallas. there are many occasions all year especially during feistas in the summer when Falleros still dress up and they too accompany the women during the Ofrenda. Falleros also belong to Casals.

The Festival of Fallas is organised by Casals, lots of them. In the city their are hundreds of Casals, in an average size town possibly 10 to 20 and in villages one or two. Each has a name, usually that of the street or area it is in. It is home, or the organising center, for the group of people who make up a ´Falla.´

A Casal is social club that organises fundraising events, and oversees the design and building of the centrepieces of each Falla - the NInots. (see below)

One can become a member of a Casal, usually by being nominated and then by paying an annual fee. During Fallas many Casal´s erect marquees in the street near their casal to house their bar and visitors and to hold their Fallas parties and verbenas.

Ninot is the name given to one single piece of the Falla. The collection of ninots of which there are average 30--50 are then called the ´Falla´

These pieces are designed by one designer ¨àrtista¨ per fallas and are very intricate, detailed, and beautifully made and painted.They take a year to make and are made by specialist craftspeople in workshops and studios all over the community. From little tiny workshops in the Barrio del Carmen, to large barns in the middle of the huerta. The majority are made in Benicalap in Fallas City, (Ciudad Artista Fallero) an extraordinary and fascinating area devoted to fallas workshops.

The figures follow a theme or story and are topical, satirical, political and comical. This year America's Cup is bound to be a strong theme. 

Almost as important as the ninots are the accompanying funny and poignant poems and verses, these too are satirical/political and are, of course in Valenciano, so a dictionary is often needed!  

For every large ninot there is a small ninot called the falla infantil.

The average finished size of these works is 10 to 15 metres high, though some are as big as 20-30 for the top 10 works!

During the night of the 15th, once all thethe Fallas are in place, they are judged under numerous categories under sections,sizes, poems etc and these are awarded at a ceremony on the afternoon of 16th, the are displayed on the Fallas, the winners of the big prizes draw the biggest crowds from the 17th onwards.

Each Casal has its own Fallas and there are approx 500 in the community - see casal for more info.

The night of the 15th is the 'planting' of the Falles. All casals, who have been working for a year to produce their individual pieces, must have finished their Fallas by midnight for judging.

The parts will have been delivered into place from all over the community from various workshops, for at least a week before. It is fascinating walking around watching these talented people putting all the finishing touches to  thier work , in many cases with the larger works it is nothing to see a craftsman hanging of a crane glueing and painting. This is usually the best night to get the closest look at the Ninots, as after this night people are desperate to see the ones that have been judged the best.

Crema, on the night of the 19th marks the end of Fallas! It is the burning of the fallas. These beautifully made sculptures go out in a blaze of gory!

10pm - Infantils,
10.30 First Section First Prize Infantil
12 midnight all the Falles in Valencia
12.30 First Section First Prize.
Culminating at about 1am, with the Fallas in the Ayuntamiento accompanied by the very last firework display for Fallas.
The fires are started with their own individual firework displays. It is impossible to get very close to many of the fires, but a very extraordinary experience just being in the city. By this point you could be forgiven for thinking the City is on Fire!

This is a very emotional night  for all involved, with lots and lots of tears shed over the burnings.

Many ninots are 20-30 metres high and are horribly close to buildings, fireman from all over the region are bought in to the city to hose the surrounding buildings whilst the fires blaze to protect them from damage!  

Ofrenda is the giving of flowers to ¨La Virgin de los Desamparados ´in the Plaza de la Virgin

A staggering 100,000 women and children, all falleras parade through the city  from their respective casals along with bands and fellow members of the casal. It is fun to walk along with a group through the city and join the fabulous atmosphere. On the days of the 17 and 18th you find these groups all over the city. All carry their different coloured flowers, chosen for them by the designer of this year's flower robe for the huge figure of the Virgin.

Once the groups get to the Plaza San Agustin (in the middle of  C/ San Vincente Martir)  or the bottom of  C/ de la Paz  (in the Plaza de Tetuán), the fun stops and the groups are especially timed with a military precision from this point to walk with their flowers to arrive in time for them to be placed to make the design of the Virgin, from here on you can only watch from behind the barriers and it is a very emotional experience. The parade from the two points starts at 4pm and finishes at approx midnight , on the 17th with the Fallera Mayor Infantil and the 18th the Fallera Mayor. Their are also floats of flowers carried by falleros that are presented to the virgin and left on display around the Plaza Virgen. By the end of it all, the Plaza is filled with floral tributes

Valencia city isn't the only place to watch an Ofrenda. Many villages opt not to join the one in the city, and they have their own. The various casals parade through the village and meet at the local church.

If you miss any of these dates or you just can´t get to the Plaza de la Virgen, don´t worry the flowers are all left in place for at least a week after, making for easier viewing .

San José
The busiest day of all the Fallas week.

San José or Saint Joseph is Father's Day in Spain.

It is also the day of the Cremà.

San José starts with an ofrenda of flowers on the Puente San Jose attended Falleras Mayores and features a mascletà.

This is followed by a¨misa¨or service with all the main Falleras and the Carpenter's Guild in the Cathedral in honour of San jose

This is a lovely day to wander around the city and take in the atmosphere of this last day, all over the city every ´casal´ has its closing party, many of them celebrating by making paellas in the street, and many having their own mini-Mascletàs which follow the Main (and last) Mascletà in the Ayuntamiento. A very noisy and emotional day. 

Moros and Cristianos
This colourful procession is the same the parades and fiestas that take place throughout the year all over the Valencian Community.

A slow march of elaborately costumed men and women representing the Moors and Christians - . This can be caught around the Marqués del Turia at 19.00 hours on the 19th !

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