If you are somewhat familiar with Las Fallas, you are probably like "Um, no, they aren't...it takes place on March 19th, always the day before Father's Day in Spain."
Well, yes, you are right in the fact that the main burnings happen that day.
But today commenced the Fallas season, with several fun happenings.
And if I don't tell you them right now in quick fashion, I will probably never get around to writing this blog and you will forever be in the dark about this wondrous occasion.
First, a little background. I have mentioned this Fallas thing for you several times before, even providing links describing Las Fallas. But some of you aren't listening (Read: Eric, my brother).
So, to really really simplify it for you, this is what it is: Las Fallas is a celebration in Valencia (the city, not the province) and ONLY Valencia, where they build giant expensive Fallas (made out of wood and styrofoam and paper mache...that somehow manage to cost several thousand dollars each) just to burn them in various locations around the city. Why? Because. They like spending months making things to burn them, I guess. I don't ask why the Spanish do some of the things they do, like hang cured ham legs in stores. They just do things to be special!
But Las Fallas takes a lot of preparation, and there are a bunch of other things associated with this festival that don't include burning stuff.
If you followed my other study abroad blog, you would know that I visited Valencia during Las Fallas in 2010. It was a frenzy.
But I didn't get to experience what I am experiencing right now, from the POV of a family that is part of a Casal Faller, which is much like a rotary club that you pay membership fees to participate in things throughout the year.
Anywho, today our Casal Faller went to the warehouse where the Falla is being constructed. Marina, Cristina's friend, is constructing a falla infantil that is a carousel, painted with cute little animals that totally resemble the jewelry she makes. Each Casal Faller has a different Falla. There are big ones and small ones (infantiles). And because there are so many Casal Falleres, there are about 300 or MORE of these paper mache structures throughout the city.
We went to the warehouse storing our Falla and Marina's falla.
And you are thinking "paper mache" and "big structures" and most likely thinking of ruffly little parade floats.
No, these are smooth and beautiful and perfect and look like they are made out of clay and sanded down to shiny perfection. NOT what you'd expect people would make just to set on fire.
Anyways, on to the pictures!!! (Click pictures to view full size)
Marina's small falla is a carousel with cute little kids and animals...
The theme of our falla is "makeup" and you will see a few women primping in outlines of mirrors, with empty hands (the lipstick and small props will be added later).
I took a pic of the inside/underside of that giant head. Inside you will see stacks and stacks of styrofoam, with a wooden frame and Great Stuff. As you can imagine, I was thinking about the impact on the ozone from burning 300 of these over the course of a week. I don't think anyone else was thinking about that, though.
A lot of Fallas have political jests or vulgar jokes. Our Falla has a naked woman with her butt cheeks being spread by a man standing behind her. What "props" will be inserted in that man's hands? Only time will tell.
Oh, look, a naked nurse (with accurate upper body anatomy!).
Homer Simpson? Now I am really confused about this so-called "theme."
I got a close-up shot of this Falla face of a soldier (or American revolution era man?) so you can see that it is way more than paper mache and foam.
After we visited the warehouse, we went to the ayuntamiento, or city hall/main plaza, where it was jam-packed with people. There was the mascleta (If you haven't looked this up on wikipedia yet, get on it! All the info you need is there!). The pretty, colorful background on my blog here isn't for nothing. It is the mascleta, in all its glory. It looks like flags and whatnot, but what it really is is little firecrackers that are set on fire from one end, setting the whole string on fire and coordinating a wonderful, noisy, fiery show to kick off Las Fallas. You can really only see the prettiness from high above if you are in a balcony of the post office or other buildings in the plaza. If you are on the ground, like us, you get to see the smoke and hear the noise that accompanies it. The whole town it seemed gathered on foot to the plaza, for this 5-minute procession. It was a sunny gorgeous day, so much so that it was hard for me to film since there was a glare. I filmed it nonetheless, but I will upload the video sometime this week. We were lucky that the heavy smoke from the firecrackers wafted over to the sun and shaded the city momentarily. No joke, the sunglasses came off after the first minute.
Then, tonight Cristina had her friends from the Casal Faller over (just a group of 10 or 12 of us), including some of the people I met earlier when we went to dinner one night. Laura, Marina, Maria Carmen, Maite, etc were all there. We had pizza bagels (or something very similar) and a bunch of other tapas. I wasn't too hungry from the McDonalds we had at lunch (can I just make a side note about how expensive it is here? I don't eat it ever in the US, but it seems like 4 happy meals, 3 chicken sandwiches and 2 big macs with 4 pops and 4 fries should not cost FIFTY EUROS). Although I saved room for Marina's homemade strawberry ice cream. Oh my, so good.
While eating, the TV was on the Valencian channel (that speaks in Valenciano, not Castellano or Spanish), showing live footage of the big event downtown. They had the main Fallera (seriously, Fallas, Fallera and Casal Faller? We need to find new words to make this less confusing) announcing to the city some stuff in Valencian about Las Fallas, including "Hey guess what chicos, WE'RE GONNA BURN THIS CITY DOWN!" Except not really. But kind of.
Then there was a song, in Valencian. Cristina and all her friends stood up to sing it, like it was some kind of national anthem minus the hand on the heart. Dani danced. He dances to anything that has a tune.
So now, my friends and family, begins the madness of Fallas. And seriously, if you haven't read up on my previous experience at Las Fallas, get on that. If hosing down buildings is a typical behavior to prevent giant burning sculptures from catching nearby apartments on fire doesn't seem like motivation to keep reading, I don't know what does.