Two Parents, Two Teens & One Caboose Witness The Fabulous Destruction Of Dozens Of Fallas

by Becky on March 26, 2013 · 6 comments

in Traditions, Travel


Traveling in Spain with our kids–two teenage girls and a nine-year-old boy–is an unusual proposition. The girls tend to gravitate toward things with color, or things with shine, or things with a certain architectural integrity. And the boys tend to like things on which they can climb (castles), or from which they can leap (stairs, which abound in Europe), or whose destruction they can witness (fallas!).  What happens once a year in Valencia appeals to both crowds.

Each one created by a different organization roughly equivalent to a neighborhood guild, the falla–which refers both to the creators and the creation–is a giant tableau, the result of months of painstaking construction and artistry on the part of the falleros and their engineers and artists.

Characters stuck with needles_7676

Those Disney folks?  They’ve got nothing on the falleros.


Charioteer and nurse_7803

Same falla_7817

Close-up of man in tea cup_7591

Man in tea cup_7575

The fallas are meant to satirize. Each falla–and they’re scattered all over the city, though more of them are clustered downtown–is a satire, its tone as critical as its colors are vivid. Whatever events have taken place in the country over the past year–political, economic, social–those events become the falleros’ inspiration and raw material.

Close-up of one near our flat_7886

One around the block from our house_7869



Heads of state–the king, for example, or the country’s former president–become the targets of many of the fallas.


President of Spain_7815

Crowds of thousands gather to see the fallas each year, wandering the city with maps that indicate which ones are where. Puzzling out the theme of each one was tricky for us, as the signs were mostly in Catalan, but the tone of each was unmistakable–like that of a political cartoon, except that the ‘cartoon’ is rendered in 3D! Below, a few of the enormous ones, some reaching up to five stories.

Falla of girl holding sun and moon_0335

Girl holding sun and moon_0338

Marti gras characters_7700

The one by the Oscar Meyer wagon_7694

As the night wears on, the pyrotechnics wind up. Everything you’re hurrying to see will eventually go up in smoke. Pretty soon, you’re running so you can catch all the fallas before the ‘bomberos’ (fire fighters) arrive to preside over the fireworks and the explosions at each site.

Getting ready to burn_0451

Little one near our house_7893

Man holding bird by neck_7653

And then.

Mr. Incredible_7734

Mustache man_7742

The crowds begin to swell.  The lights captivate.  Foods of all kinds beckon to folks itching for a late-night snack.

View through city gate_7618

Tower of lights_0422

Snacks during fallas_0266

Airstream concessions_0491

And while we settle in to wait just outside the fence of our favorite falla, an enormous tableau featuring a cluster of giant babies . . .


Baby girl and boy_0532

Baby with telescope_0487

the fire crews start arriving to prep the sites, including ours.  For forty-five long minutes, we stand.  And wait.

Getting ready to burn_0587

And just like that, just after midnight, it all. Goes up. In smoke.

Fireworks in background_0702

Putting the fire out_0664

Babies burn_0621

All over the city, each elaborately beautiful falla combusts, one after another.

The fire starts_0439

Miss Zinnia, she doesn’t know what to think.

Millay reacts_0690

Everywhere, the fallas burn!

More burning_0671

Goose, he’s ready to watch fallas blow up until the sun rises.  The girls? Not so sure. Regardless, they’ve never seen anything like this.

Kids react_0669

And they may not, ever again. Which is exactly why we wanted to be part of it!

Karen L March 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

That’s crazy! What an interesting tradition! I wonder how it would feel to work on such a beautiful, detailed work of art knowing that it will go up in smoke… Such fun things to see!

Becky March 27, 2013 at 2:42 am

I know–that they would set fire to their amazing creations! I understood it better when I realized that many of them are effigies, so that when the tableaux burn, the bad things they represent burn, too (like the shame of Spain’s national banking scandal last summer, where the EU had to bail Spain out so it wouldn’t default on its loans). Imagine Americans building some huge, gorgeous tableau that depicts the housing crash of 2008 in some really over-the-top way . . . then burning the whole thing afterwards as a way of saying, We’re NOT okay with this!

And with their passion for fireworks, Americans might really rock the falla idea (since each falla’s incineration begins with a crazy show of fireworks).

(You can tell how cool I thought all this was, huh? . . .)

Karen L March 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm

That makes MUCH more sense. It would be interesting to see how that could play out here. 🙂

Becky March 28, 2013 at 1:07 am

I thought the same thing. Like if we got the Rose Parade float builders busy with the concept–be cool, no?

Daisy Piatt March 27, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Love it Becky! Will continue to read. Audrey is headed to Spain for a year. Not sure which part yet. More details to follow. I told her to read your blog to prepare. Exciting!

Becky March 28, 2013 at 1:01 am

Daisy! SO fun to hear from you! Yes, be sure and let us know where Miss Audrey is coming, and when. Brilliant! xx

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