Looking at the photographs of building-sized blazing fires burning in a downtown city, one may think some horrible disaster had taken place. But for those in Valencia, Spain, the Las Fallas Festival is quite the opposite of disaster. In fact, the festival is a celebration of the beginning of Spring, as well as a commemoration of Saint Joseph.
This exciting tradition happens each year between March 15 and March 19 in Valencia, and has spread in recent years into several other towns. Each group of people or town participating has a group, known as the Casal Faller, who spend the entire year planning their festival and raising funds for the festival.
During the festivals, monuments are built, fireworks are lit, parties and feasts are held, and humongous fires burn. The word "fallas" was derived from the Latin word for "torch." And the festival lives up to this name.
Gigantic puppet figures, called "ninots," are constructed solely for the festival, and during the week they are on display in public and in parades. Toward the end of the festivities, as fires burn, the ninots are often lit up as part of the burning displays. These fires are called "fallas."
This year's festival in Valencia included Ninots designed to look like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Las Fallas is not just a big party. Historical lectures, religious ceremonies, even comedy shows go on through the week. It's a time for the people of Spain to relax, reminisce, have a good time, and prepare for the coming Spring and Summer seasons. From the huge puppets to the larger-than-life bonfires, Las Fallas is truly a unique and fascinating event.