Valencia gears up for Las Fallas

The hugely popular Las Fallas festival in Valencia kicks off on 14 March and once again promises to bring six days of fun-filled hedonism to the city.

Held annually in honour of St Joseph, Las Fallas is a huge festival to mark the arrival of spring through art, humour and history. Preparations for the festival start almost a year in advance with the creation of the Ninots - huge dream-like papier-mâché figures, some of which can reach up to 20 metres in height. Each neighbourhood has their own figure and there is much competition between districts, with local artists and sculptors spending months perfecting their creations in the run-up to the festival. 

On the evening of 14 March the Ninots are brought out into the streets so that the next morning the city is adorned with huge papier-mâché caricatures. The figures are made to look like well-known figures - the more ridiculous the interpretation the better - often with satirical political undertones. Throughout the week the streets of Valencia are packed with locals and tourists alike who flock to see these fantastical artistic creations. All the while, the city is awash with firecrackers, parades, impromptu concerts and fireworks. To honour the Virgin Mary, people lay down bouquets, which gradually turns into a mountain of flowers reaching up to 14 metres high.

The big finale comes on the closing night, when everyone gathers together for a spectacular firework display and the famous burning of the Fallas (the Ninots mounted on top of huge explosive monuments). The burning symbolises getting rid of everything that is bad and making a fresh start for a new season. It's a fantastic spectacle, but also emotional to watch after all the hard work that goes into building these temporary masterpieces. All the Fallas are burnt except one - the prize Falla - which is voted for throughout the festival. The winning Falla successfully evades a fire-filled fate and joins the collection of winning creations from previous years at the Fallero Museum.

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