Las Fallas in the Eyes of a Foreigner
As a person who has been living in Spain for 4 months I was really impressed by an event called fallas.
When I arrived to Alzira in November, people were constantly referring to Las Fallas. "Oh, you don’t know anything about the fallas? You’re gonna love it! Wait until the fallas start… And how did you like the mascletà? "
I have seen so many Spaniards discussing nothing but the fallas. I was told something about a party and drinking but I still could not imagine it how it would look like and in general, why is it so wonderful. Some people proudly mentioned that they were falleros and I could just only nod and say "Oh wow, that’s great!" with no clue what’s going on.
Now after the fallas, reflecting on that, locals were interested if I had enjoyed it as a foreigner (a.k.a. guiri :D) and I have to admit that I had enjoyed it a lot. Honestly, it was one of the best parties I have ever experienced.
This was when it all started.
Walking through the street, back from Valencia, on one nice Saturday’s afternoon, I have noticed groups of people dressed in those traditional baroque clothes. I have seen them already, marching in a parade a few weeks ago, but this time it was different – there were so many! Some of falleros were just having fun, others were marching in a parade and dancing. I really enjoyed being there, among the crowds of locals, and also among those ones who were dressed beautifully.
The streets of Alzira were full of people. There was a great atmosphere and I could feel the excitement in the air. It was also made by stunning music played in by orchestras in the each corner. The whole town seemed to turn into a big open air party zone and I fell in love with Spanish culture more than ever.
La Cavalcada Multicolor
The next Saturday, there was another huge parade but of a different kind. Surprisingly, there were dragons, circus performers, Super Marios, men dressed as women, walking traffic signs, strawberries, candies, flowerpots and so many others! I was pretty fascinated to see how creative people are, smiling at the sight of so many. Additionally, I was pleased to see my Spanish friends in the parade, at whom I could proudly wave and talk for a while. It was nice to see and meet so many local friends there (which you wouldn’t meet in Valencia).
I was also informed that it was more than just a funny carnival as each group of people (falla) represents a certain criticism. As it involved a bit of knowledge of local politics, my Spanish friends standing next to me were trying to explain to me the meaning behind the costumes. It was also good to understand valencian inscriptions and labels on the trucks or vans which were part of the parades. Anyways, I also learnt a lot about the local situation in the town which made me understand local culture and people better.
Mascletà and fire crackers
Luckily, I was told about mascletà in advance so I knew what to expect. However, if I would be just some random tourist passing through I would probably think it had been either a terrorist attack or the beginning of the World War III.
Mascletà, also called ’a mascletada’ is kind of pyrotechnic moment of a huge rhythmic noise, a sort of firework without visual display. Trust me, when I say noisy, I mean intensely super noisy. It’s one of the loudest things I’ve ever heard, especially while standing in the first row. You can feel the ground shaking. (I did.)
I got used to fire crackers, so after 2 weeks of constant noise in the streets so I did not jump whenever I heard it. Anyways, the smell of gunpowder everywhere and continuous explosions of the fire crackers made me feel like New Year’s Eve is here.
Well, I had a unique opportunity to join the fallas as a real fallera. My short version of the fallas includes a saying that I enjoyed it like a ‘fallera’ but without that fancy dress which is actually more comfortable, I’d say : )
I was taken to a white falla’s tent (they call it casal – perhaps the famous valencian drink- ’la cassalla’ - is named after that? It’s a place where people from the same ‘falla’ meet, eat and party) and had no idea what would follow. We had just arrived there for the breakfast, the musicians just returned from ‘la desperta’ (which is basically loud street morning alarm :D) and we were introduced to others (Majority did not speak English as I realised– but people were nice anyways). After recovering from the shock that I would have to talk in Spanish all the time there I was shown the photos from the previous fallas, introduced to others and all it went well. Here I would like to highlight the fact that locals/falleros were very open and welcoming which is pretty important when you are a newcomer : )
We were taken to a house of ’el presidente de la falla’ which was a nice gesture (again, Spanish natural generosity and hospitability) and I saw other photographs and even clothes that people wear during the fallas. Then we became the part of the falla, promenading with others (falleros/falleras) together with the orchestra, dancing, drinking and waving to the ones we knew. The streets in Alzira reminded of an outdoor art gallery.
I mean, watching falleros from the street or a balcony and walking with ’my falla’ is a completely different experience. Suddenly, you belong to someone and it is ’our falla’ and ’our casal’ not just some crowd and some white tent out there. It somehow makes you feel special – you are in a certain centre of attention while walking on the streets. You are surrounded by the same people for three days and you spend a time together with them, sharing the same experience which makes you feel closer to them.
Later on, we went to see a mascleta at 14:00, having one of the best places to see it which was really worth it. Again, one feels special in that VIP zone : ) In the evening, there was an "Lliurament de premis" where our falla won a prize for the falla’s monument (a kids one). It was a happy moment for our falla as everyone around me was merrily jumping and – Spanish people just know how to express emotions properly. Not surprisingly, there was a party at the evening.
Yes, I woke up for desperta and yes, it was hard to be near our casal before 8, after having a party. Yes, I even threw a fire cracker. A big one (Really, I have a photo). The first fire cracker in my life – here in Spain in my 26 years :D
Another event that is happening during the fallas is called "L'Ofrena". The very first moments were honestly were emotional for me but then it was a bit long. But again, the fallas vs. Teri – 1:0.
I think I have had the one of the best party in my life that day, visiting other fallas in the night. I could see a really large fallas with hundreds of people partying inside the tent. (But of course, our falla was certainly and undoubtedly the best one : )
The last day of the fallas.
Yeah, I did not wake up for la desperta and used this precious time for sleeping one more hour and taking a shower. Anyways, even though you don’t go with your falla to wake up everyone at 8:00 throwing different sizes of fire crackers, you are not able to sleep as other falla that is passing around your flat will do the same. There’s nothing better than being woken up by rackety noise and loud music early in the morning. There are moments in your life when you would rather be somewhere else. On another planet, for instance (or in a deserted island). What is the point of being awake since 8 a.m.?
Although it sounds like some delicious cream the real meaning is way different – and not so enjoyable for many, one would say. It is very sad emotional moment while watching the fire burning falla’s monument. It was hard to believe that all that seemingly endless fun was about to end soon and that the next day will be just an ordinary day again, full of regular duties.
Everyone was sad and even for me it was hard to say good night and bye to those who accepted me there and with whom I felt like with a family.
After Las Fallas
First of all, I had felt as tired as never before. The very next day, the town remained of a ghost town with no one around. If there was anyone, they looked destroyed so I was sure that person must has been fallera/o. I still had the xaranga’s melody in my head so I was singing it for several days as well as I downloaded as many songs as I could remember to keep the fallas atmosphere alive.
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I think it’s definitely not for everyone. Yes, it is important Valencian feast (more important than Christmas for many of locals) however, it includes getting out of your comfort zone. It is not for those who have panic attack while having a look at the crowds or hearing too much noise. In addition, obviously it is difficult to be with a group of total strangers – especially when they do not speak the same language as you. It was a real challenge for me, as my Spanish is not so advanced but in the end everything went really well. As always, it is up to you how you will tackle this experience and how much you are willing take out of it.
Again, I would like to express all of my thanks and gratitude to everyone who made this opportunity real, including people from ‘my falla’ Hernán Cortés who accepted me there with open warm heart.
I hope I can join las fallas the next year - en el año que viene - as a fallera.
Terézia Paňková – Erasmus+ “Volunteering Life Changing! III"