To give you an idea of what this celebration is all about, here are the top 10 things I saw that weekend at Las Fallas.
1. Las fallas
The celebration shares the name of the monuments that are featured on display during the festival. Each neighborhood in Valencia has a group of people that work all year long on their falla. This group may throw several fundraising events throughout the year to raise enough money for the artist and creation of the falla. Most fallas have a theme - usually they're satirical or criticize some aspect of society - and on the last day of the festival, the fallas are burned.
2. Las falleras
Falleras are the women dressed in traditional fallera dresses, with hair that reminded me of Princess Leia. These dresses cost thousands of euros, so I'm assuming at least one requirement of being a fallera must be having a dress.
3. Los falleros
The men in traditional clothing (falleros) reminded me of pirates due to their white shirts, colorful vests, and thick cloth around the waist. They walked with the falleras in endless processions throughout Valencia that weekend.
Behind each group of falleras and falleros were marching bands, playing traditional Valencian songs as well as Spanish pop music.
5. La ofrenda (The offering)
Single flowers are presented to fill-in the dress of the virgen in the plaza, as pictured above.
6. Light Displays
Some of the streets leading to a falla were large light displays that went off every hour or so. The lights pictured above lasted about five minutes and the lights changed, corresponding to music playing on speakers in the background.
This lights display of the Eiffel Tower was all lit up when we walked through.
7. Los petardos
When we went to Valencia on Friday morning Gregorio bought five different boxes of firecrackers; one was a box of 50, two boxes of 30, and two boxes of 10!
8. La mascletà
From March 1 - 19, every day at 2pm is a mascletà. At my first one, I wasn't sure what to expect. Gregorio warned me to open my mouth so my ears wouldn't pop - something about pressure. What?! When it started, I was wondering why you would have fireworks in the middle of the day if you couldn't see them. I quickly learned the mascletà isn't really a fireworks show, rather it's loud, explosive petardos.
Around the five minute mark, for the "grand finale", the speed of the explosions sped up. The explosions got louder and faster, and I soon understood what Gregorio meant about the pressure. Picture the fast explosions as eighth notes. Ten seconds later they're sixteenth notes and you can feel the shaking in your body; it's so loud and strong. You don't think it can get any louder, and the sky is filling with smoke, but suddenly the explosions become thirty-second notes, shaking you to your core. It feels like a breeze, but it's just the pressure from the explosions. It's something you must experience in person to know what it's like. I had never felt anything like it before.
9. Fuegos artificiales (Fireworks)
Every night of the festival at 1:00am is a fireworks show. The last show Sunday night starts at 1:30am. I liked Saturday's fireworks better than Sunday's, though we had a better viewing spot on Saturday which may have affected my preference. The show was about 15-20 minutes long, and I saw types of fireworks I had never seen before. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it was an enjoyable captivating display. Look out USA, Valencia's got some skills we could use for the 4th of July...
10. Food stands
Like any summer carnival in the states, Valencia's streets were full of food vendors. Caramel apples, crepes, buñuelos de calabaza, and churros were common sites.