“Are you okay? What was that noise?”
“Don’t worry, it’s just Fallas.”
It’s just Fallas, words that are worth mentioning to everyone I speak with over the phone. The unpredictable shooting of fireworks from distances near and far often throw people off, including myself.
When I try to explain the wonders of Las Fallas to my friends who aren’t in Valencia with me, I like to start off by explaining that the population appears to triple in two weeks’ time. Walking anywhere is merely a navigation through five year old children who are releasing their inner pyro, by setting off explosives on every block.
“Don’t run in the riverbed! Some of the firecrackers people throw there are designed to follow the wind, and if you’re running, it’ll follow you.” These were words I never expected to hear at an ISA meeting, but little did I know the warning was spoken with genuine intent. I know, because I’ve witnessed it. When they told us to close our windows at night so explosives can’t shoot into our rooms, it was not an exaggeration. People of all ages are setting things off right outside our homes. Nothing can be said about it; It’s just Fallas.
The streets are swarming with people. Spanish used to be the only language I could hear around me, but now it’s a mixture of cultures and various languages from near and far. People gather at Plaza de Ayuntamiento every day at 2 pm to watch the Mascletas. I like to explain them as “Fireworks without color,” to people that don’t know what they are. Except Mascletas are much louder and much more personal than fireworks. They don’t shoot off from miles away. They emerge from the middle of the plaza using tons of gun powder. It gets so busy I had to find a surrogate way just to walk to class.
Nights, to put it simply, are one huge party. Different neighborhoods have extravagant light shows to amuse the crowds. Fireworks increase in extravagance with each passing night. The streets are filled with vendors selling delicious churros and buñuelos (fried dough balls) on every corner, along with decorative, cheap jewelry and trinkets that sell in street tents. Block parties and clubs are crawling with people. For a city that I once used to call very laid-back, I have been proven wrong when it comes to the month of March.
The actual Fallas alone are a different story all together. “Fallas” are extravagant, giant sculptures that tower over all the citizens and visitors of Valencia. There are over 700 of them scattered throughout the city, bathing in their glory as people pass by with admiration. They range with height, color, appearance and societal commentary. They bask in the street for five days, and on the final day, they are burned for all to see. Only one survives each year, depending on popular vote. The others are sent to ashes.
Vibrant colors, feel-good music, drinks at your disposal, wonderful food and great friends are just a few of many things to celebrate during Fallas. It’s a festival so grand that the meaning of it can’t truly be described in words. To see the beautiful city of Valencia unwrap in front of your eyes is so magnificent and charming. When people ask me what I think about this city, I like to give them an honest answer of “I really love Valencia. For most of the year, it’s very laid back and relaxed. Then March comes, and everyone lets out their closeted pyromaniac identities before putting them to rest for April. It’s truly a wonderful sight.”
One can tell that It’s beginning to look a lot like Fallas once you can witness LOTS of explosions, fireworks, colors, people, food, parties, concerts, and giant colorful puppets that get burned. Simply put, Tis the season.
Jennifer Michaud is a student at Worcester State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain.
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