During my Spain trip in 2007, I visited Valencia in the company of my good friend Alejandro. He was kind enough to take some leave from work during my vacation and his uncle was generous enough to open the door of his home to us. All I knew before heading over was that it was Spain’s third largest city, it sports a great football club and that their oranges are delicious – although most Valencia oranges I have ever had were from Florida.
Little did I know that we were actually arriving in time for the Falles (pronounced Fah-yahs), a wonderful traditional celebration involving every single barrio of the city. Every city intersection seemed to be involved in the event. The people honour Saint Joseph building magnificent monuments out of a papier maché material that can be as tall as a five storey building. A number of towns in the Comunitat hold similar celebrations, but the capital of the region inspired the original tradition.
The neighbourhoods have divided themselves into groups over generation, holding fundraising activities often featuring Spain’s most famous dish, the paella. The principal simple ingredient is rice bathed in water with a tinge of saffron and can have a mix of various delightful additions: chicken, artichoke, chorizo, seafood… the sky is the limit. During the festival, you can find scattered throughout the downtown core of the city numerous tables to enjoy Valencia’s finest cooking. ¡Moltes gràcies!
The Valencianos are fond of this tradition and it is observed almost as a national holiday lasting about a week. If you arrive here during this time, you may mistake the city’s ambient sounds for those of a civil war or shoot out, as you will hear firecrackers and fireworks blowing off at all hours of the day. This is not a time for a meditative trance and you are guaranteed to lose quite a bit of sleep. The purpose is to be out and visit these magnificent effigies.
The closing ceremonies include people dancing in traditional outfits and people climbing on top of each other, forming a human pyramid, decorating a three-storey wreath with colourful flowers. After this is completed, the statues are burnt while everyone cheers. I was explained that the statues represent what the Valencianos dislike about society and burning them releases the troubles of the past. I suggest large quantities of Red Bull to get the most out of the trip! ¡Amunt Valencia!