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The Fallas [ faʎas ] ( span. ) Or case [ fajes (] . Val ) are a Valencian Spring Festival, which every year to St. Joseph in March in the capital Valencia of and in a similar form, often at different dates, in many places Comunidad Valenciana and is part of the traditional folklore of the Valencian coastal landscape ( País Valencià ). The main attraction are sculptures as high as a house made of paper mache and other flammable materials, which are lit on the last day of the festival and burned down in the streets and squares accompanied by loud fireworks . They are also called Fallas and have given the festival its name.


The Fallas were created in the 18th century , although the origins are unclear. A common thesis is that at the end of the cold season the carpenters burned their wooden frames for the lamps and candles because they no longer needed them in spring. The date for this cremation (Valencian: cremà) was then set to the day of Saint Joseph ( San José / Sant Josep ) on March 19th over time. Since Joseph, the foster father of Jesus of Nazareth , was like his son a carpenter, he is considered the patron saint of carpenters in Spain .

At some point that day, scraps of wood and old furniture that had been collected beforehand were burned on the streets. Over time, clothed straw dolls were also hung in front of the windows and across the streets or they were leaned on wooden pedestals against the walls of houses and burned in front of numerous spectators. Then the craftsmen in one neighborhood began to build small works of art for the day, which consisted of several figures. Until the early 20th century, the fallas consisted of large boxes containing three or four wax dolls wearing cloth clothes. Then the artists discovered paper mache as the ideal material. In the meantime, synthetic fibers are sometimes used because of their greater stability and water resistance. However, this practice is sometimes heavily criticized because many toxins are released when these materials are burned.

The dolls were gradually turned into three-dimensional works of art, which, made of wood, plaster and cardboard, each pick up on a specific theme and caricature. Today the largest sculptures are structures as high as a house, often weighing more than ten tons and sometimes costing over 100,000 euros. Every year there is a competition in which the population chooses the best Fallas and the most popular individual figure ( ninot , doll in Valencian ). The three most popular individual figures are not burned, but exhibited in the "Museo Fallero".

Artists and craftsmen often spend a year working on the sometimes foolish-looking monuments , which athletes, national greats and local celebrities often humorously glorify or ridicule. Although in the past centuries the authorities were suspicious and temporarily banned, the Fallas are now a spectacle sponsored by the city administration and have developed into that exhilarating and colorful festival that puts Valencia in a state of emergency year after year. The Fallas are little known abroad as the festival is mainly intended by the citizens of the city for the citizens of the city and it was not started to professionally promote it as an international tourist attraction until the 1990s.

The driving force behind the Fallas are the almost 150,000 members of the Fallas associations from the almost 40 districts of Valencia, each of which comprises a block or several streets. Every club has its headquarters, called Casal Faller . The members pay an annual fee and participate in the preparations for the festival all year round. Each Fallas association is represented by a president and organizes festivals, raffles, competitions, etc. all year round to raise money for the festival.

In 2016, the Fallas of Valencia were inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity .

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic , the Fallas 2020 had to be canceled for the first time since the Spanish Civil War .

The highlights

The focus is on the construction of a separate falla made of wood and paper mache to represent the city district. To this end, specialized craftsmen and artists are contracted. Other tasks include preparing the costume parades, putting together the band or setting up the club hall in which the city district meets during the festival week. Each district would like to receive one of the coveted prizes that are awarded in different categories during the Fallas (best Falla, best fireworks, etc.). Each club also has a fallera , a Valencian woman in traditional costume; The Fallera Mayor is chosen from among all the girls and officially represents the festival for one week.

Ambition and civic pride play a major role in the Fallas. The competitive character between the individual districts provides impetus and lets the Fallas grow year after year. The celebrations within the district associations are only partially accessible to visitors or tourists. In addition to the activities in the neighborhoods, there is also an official program during the Fallas that is organized by the city council and is open to everyone.

Ofrena de Flors 2008

The official program includes B. the Ofrena de Flors , the two-day "sacrificial walk " in honor of the Verge dels Desamparats (Holy Virgin of the Defenseless), who is also the city ​​patroness of Valencia. Over 100,000 men, women and children in colorful traditional costumes take part in the Ofrena de Flors . The men come in traditional suits, the women in skirts made of fine silk and expensive brocade , their hair artfully pinned on. It is not uncommon for a whole month's income to go into the gala costumes; but they are worn over and over again. A 14 meter high wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin will be erected in the Plaza de la Virgen . The Madonna dress is put on it from the flowers brought by the participants of the ofrenda. Almost 50 tons of roses and carnations, gladioli and tulips, anemones and lilies - flowers that are flown to Valencia from all over Spain - are needed.

The fireworks are also organized by the cities or financed by sponsors. For the Fallas, the Valencians put hundreds of tons of pyrotechnic sentences in fireworks , which are ignited every day during the festival weeks: colorful castillos (fireworks display ) at night, loud mascletàs (gun cascades) in the streets during the day. The fireworks every evening on the banks of the Turia in Valencia attract several hundred thousand spectators every time. The real peculiarity of the Fallas are the daylight fireworks (mascletàs) , which in Valencia during the festival week are ignited every day at 2 p.m. on the town hall square and also attract tens of thousands of visitors. Firecrackers lined up on long strings explode every second and ignite a symphony of thundering rumblings, bangs and whistling, hissing sounds. Here, emphasis is not only placed on volume, rather it is up to the pyrotechnician to make the rhythm and dynamics of the Mascletà as appealing as possible. Good pyrotechnicians are celebrities in Valencia and are celebrated like pop stars. The thunder concert goes through the bone and puts the crowd in a trance for minutes. In order to prevent accidents, the total daily amount of powder in the Mascletà has now been limited to a maximum of 120 kg of lightning bolts . TVVi will broadcast the Mascletàs live on television every day from 2 p.m. during the festival week. For the younger audience there are pop concerts in the city center with well-known Spanish artists.

Visitors to the Fallas of Valencia will find fallas everywhere in the individual districts, in addition to the major events; in 2005 there were 378. Each district has its own program with small fireworks, mascletás, competitions, etc. On the way through the city, one also constantly comes across one of the more than 350 bands that parade through the streets during the festival week and traditional music (e.g. Pasodoble ) play.

The festivities in Valencia culminate on the evening of St. Joseph's Day on March 19th. In honor of the saint, the Fallas are burned from midnight, with the largest in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in front of the town hall not being lit until one hour after midnight.

Web links

Commons : Falles 2005  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. New entries 2016 on the website of the German UNESCO Commission; Article on the Fallas at http://www.unesco.org
  2. For the first time since the civic congregation: "Fallas" in Valencia canceled. In: euronews. March 13, 2020, accessed May 16, 2020 .
  3. Andrea Courtin: Fiery Art. There is no fiesta without pyrotechnics: The Land of Valencia smells of black powder. In: Costa Blanca News , June 24, 2016, accessed July 6, 2018.