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5 Tips for Enjoying Las Fallas to the Full

From the last Sunday in February to 19 March – the feast of St Joseph – Valencia is gripped by its most acclaimed and unique fiesta, Las Fallas (Falles,in Valencian). This year’s edition is one of the first festivities to be celebrated in the city after Las Fallas was designated a World Heritage event by UNESCO on 30 November last year. Here, then, are some pointers to getting the most out of the fiesta.

1. The Origins

Las Fallas pay tribute to St Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Popular belief has it that the Fallas originated in the carpenters’ guild where, each year on the eve of St Joseph, they would clean out their workshops and burn the leftover junk in bonfires in an act of purification to mark the arrival of spring. Over the years, those scraps of furniture were remodelled into the now famous dummies known as ninots.

2. It’s Really About “Ninots”

These human effigies echo current affairs by parodying the most controversial public figures of the moment, mostly lampooning them in a spirit of pungent irony. They are the true protagonists of Las Fallas. All the ninots compete to be saved from the flames. The weeks in the run-up to the fiesta, they are collectively put on public display, before being devoured by the flames. Well, all of them except one which, for its originality or painstaking manufacture, will be spared from the fire. Which one will be spared the ordeal this time around?

3. The Crowning Events

The falleras (festival queens) and the firework displays are further ingredients in this celebration, endowing it with a character of its own. The crida or “call” marks the start of the festivity which, as mentioned earlier, takes place on the last Sunday in February. The thunderous mascletàs, the despertà, a firecracker “awakening” marking the start of the day, and the ongoing pyrotechnic displays provide the sound, light and colour which become a constant feature throughout the celebrations, culminating in the cremà, the mass bonfire where theninotsare burned.

4. Culinary Traditions

A must-taste culinary speciality of this fiesta are the buñuelos or fritters – packed with energy, they will help you withstand the riotous goings-on. Whether plain or puff fritters, chocolate ones or those with pumpkin or sweet potato, you should make a point of savouring this delicacy. You can plan your bites at the numerous street stalls around the city, or opt to head for the classical venues where this speciality is served, like the Horchatería Santa Catalina, located in the heart of the old town, the Horchatería El Collado or L’Orxateria del Mercat Central.

Seeing you’re in Valencia, the land of master paella makers, you won’t be surprised to learn that this culinary marvel abounds among the fiesta dishes. Don’t hesitate to join the crowds around the various open-air, mass paellas simmering away.

5. Beyond the Fiesta

Take advantage of your stay in Valencia to tour its historic centre and soak up such gems as Valencia Cathedral, La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange), in elegant, civil-Gothic style, the Central Market, a fine example of pre-Modernist architecture, the city’s magnificent palaces and its medieval gates.

You should also make a point of visiting the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Art and Science), where you are bound to be amazed by the futuristic buildings, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.

Be sure to book your Vueling to Valencia to experience first-hand one of the city’s most important and exciting celebrations.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by keith ellwood

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