Las Fallas or the Festival of Fire is held in Valencia, Spain every year from the 1st to the 19th of March. People hit the streets dressed up in traditional costumes, build a huge statue of Virgin Mary out of flowers and enormous fallas (cardbord and papier-mâché figures), enjoy mascletas, light displays and valencian food. I am in Valencia right now and I will keep you updated throughout 2011's Las Fallas Festival.
In a country known for its unique and odd fiestas, Las Fallas festival is undoubtedly one of the craziest. Every year the city of Valencia celebrates the revival of nature with mascletas, religious processions, bonfires and bullfights.
What are the mascletas?
A mascleta is an explosive display of the concussive effects of co-ordinated firecracker and fireworks barrages. Not so much visual, but very, very loud (over 110dB!), the firecrackers are synchronized like an orchestra and the result is a one of a kind symphony. The most important mascleta is held in front of the City Hall, at 2pm every day (except rainy days) from the 1st to the 19th of March. Smaller mascletas are held during Las Fallas festival around the city of Valencia and the neighbouring villages too.
Valencia is the Mozart of fireworks and firecrackers worldwide and gunpowder is here a religion of some sorts, a form of artistic expression. Every mascleta is tuned to a different song and is organized by different professional pyrotechnic bands that compete to create the best melody. The best mascleta is meant to be on the 19th of March, the last day of Las Fallas festival. The crowds gather in front of the City Hall hours in advance and during the mascleta the nearby streets can get pretty cramped.
In the video above you can watch the first mascleta of 2011 (starting at 3:10). At the beginning the reporter (speaking in valenciano, the local language), talks about the initiative to include Las Fallas festival in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Then you can see laFallera Mayor and Fallera Mayor Infantil of Valencia (the two young ladies dressed in the beautiful traditional costumes who represent the festival) giving the start of the mascleta from the City Hall balcony. Next to them, the lady in red, is the mayor of Valencia (she's been the mayor of the city for 20 years now). The mascletas usually last for 5 to 10 minutes during which more or less 160kg of gunpowder explode. Multiply that for 19 days and you will get a sense of how loud Las Fallas festival really is.