The Las Fallas celebration dates back to the Middle Ages when excess winter supplies were torched in an equivalent to a spring cleaning. Today’s rendition takes a more grandiose approach, paying homage to Spain’s history and culture with spectacular displays of pyrotechnics.
Las Fallas 2013 (Photo by: Junta Central Fellera)
- Fiery Evolution of Las Fallas
Lighting fires has long been a way to kick off the start of spring. Long before lightbulbs, Valencian carpenters and artisans plied their trades under candlelight, using pieces of wood called parots as wick holders. Come spring, when sunlight replaced candlelight, the parots were burned. The pagan ritual merged with the church's commemoration of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of the carpenters, and thus Las Fallas was born.
As time passed, traditions evolved. The parots took on human forms. Today, the effigies are dressed up in costumes: the larger ones are called fallas, the smaller, doll-like ones, ninot. Over time, the ninots grew in both size and detail, as did the cartoonish fallas, which typically depict satirical scenes and current events. Polystyrene replaced the fallas’ papier mâché-covered wooden frames, allowing them structures of up to 30 meters (100 feet). During the grand finale, all works end up in a blaze, except for one to be preserved in the Museo Fallero as a symbol of prosperity.