Gunpowder, flames, alcohol and huge crowds of people may not seem the most sensible combination. But then this is no ordinary event.
Adding to the long line of notoriously odd Spanish fiestas, the Las Fallas Festival in Valencia – also known as the Festival of Fire – celebrates St Joseph in its own special way, setting alight huge statues during five days of revelry.
The feast in honour of St Joseph, the patron saint of carpentry, with which it all began has certainly evolved somewhat. There are a few different theories as to how it developed into an excuse to burn things, with one being that as the days got longer the town’s folk set fire to wooden street lamps when they were no longer needed, while another more involved tale is that Valencia’s carpenters used to set fire to their old tools in tribute to their patron saint leading up to his saint’s day.
The name of the modern day festival gives a hint of what is in store during the five-day March celebrations, with Las Fallas translating as 'the fires' in the local tongue. Huge and slightly eerie puppets, dolls and figures known as ‘ninots’ or are made out of papier-mâché, card, wood and other materials, some of which tower hundreds of feet tall and depict everything from Spanish celebrities to political events, before being hoisted into place at hundreds of spots across the city.
Colourful religious flower-laying processions follow for a couple of days, complete with marching bands and period costumes, while proceedings go with more of a bang, with fireworks displays taking place three times a day. The festival culminates with 'la cremà', something reminiscent of the frightening ending to The Wicker Man but with a much jollier mood, as the hundreds of models - the fallas - are stuffed with fireworks and set alight at midnight on March 19, the feast day of St Joseph.
A Party Atmosphere
Naturally a party atmosphere is prevalent throughout the days leading up to Las Fallas, especially on the final night itself. The city's population swells from one million to more than triple that, as visitors from around the world gather to glimpse one of the most unique sights as flames leap in the air throughout the city. At first glance it may bring back memories of the London Riots but rest assured the local fire brigade is on hand to stop everything getting out of control.
Singing, dancing and all-out mayhem!
Valencia is known for its sizzling nightlife throughout the year and the festival spirit means there will be plenty of chances for you to burn up the dance floor as the city’s younger residents continue the party at various hotspots once the fireworks are over. Throw in a few thousand gallons of rocket-fuel sangria and it is the final ingredient you need for an all-nighter of singing, dancing and all-out mayhem.