Las Fallas finally came to its fiery conclusion on Sunday, March 19th with the midnight burning of all of the fallas sculptures. Called La Crema, this always happens on the Feast of Saint Joseph, who was the Patron Saint of carpenters. One of the underlying themes of Las Fallas is to clear out the waste of the previous year before the spring equinox and make everything clean for the new season; a kind of spring cleaning or purification. Using fire.
We spent the last day of the festival touring around Valencia to catch some of the sights that we had missed. We visited the Plaza de la Virgen to view the massive display of flowers from La Ofrenda. “The Offering” was a two day long parade during which all of the falleros groups made offerings of flowers to the Virgin Mary.
Women (falleras) in traditional Valencian dress carried small bouquets of carnations to the Plaza de la Virgen, where the flowers were arranged in a large wooden structure that was transformed into a colorful floral dress for a figure of the Virgin Mary. The Fallas groups also compete to see who can bring the most elaborate floral arrangement as an offering, filling the plaza with fragrant flowers.
In stark contrast to that touching display of purity and innocence, our next stop was quite scandalous. We trekked to the outer edge of the city to see the first prize winning Falla of the Sección Especial – the best of the Fallas. The theme of L’Antigua de Campanar’s 22 meter (72 feet) tall sculpture was Eternal Seduction. The figures depicted people in love and scenes of temptation and seduction. They certainly didn’t shy away from nudity.
If you think this image is too risqué for this blog, keep in mind that this two-story tall pole dancer was displayed in the middle of a plaza in full view of the neighborhood children.
Our favorite fallas were both near the Mercado Colon and so this is where we planted ourselves at midnight. When the time came for La Crema, it went down like this: First, all of the spotlights around the falla went dark. Next, a shower of fireworks was set off next to the falla letting everyone know that this falla is about to burn. It turns out these things are loaded with fireworks. The fireworks within the monument itself were ignited for a dramatic display of sparks around the base of the falla. This got the whole thing going as flames crept up from the bottom and within a few minutes the entire falla was engulfed in flames.
The Falla Grabador Esteve – Cirilo Amoros was the winner of the first prize in the Primera A section (silver category). The sculpture titled The Sea of Neta was centered around a sea lion seeking to regenerate the contaminated oceans. He is surrounded by mermaids and sea life looking over figures of humans behaving poorly around the base of the fall.
This massive structure of wood and polystyrene went up in a huge tower of flames, followed by a thick black cloud of polystyrene smoke; the irony of which would have left that poor sea lion shaking his head in dismay.
Covered in ash and debris, we rushed down the street to the Mercado Colon, where the lights had just gone out. The Falla Conde de Salvatierra-Cirilo Amorós theme was Teatrers (theaters). It was in the Primera B section, but did not win any prizes. Nonetheless, we loved the wooden sculpture for its delicate beauty and simplicity. I was disappointed to see this one burn.
And just like that, Las Fallas was over. There were no late night parties after the Crema on Sunday night. When we woke on Monday morning everything was gone. The party tents, stages, and food trucks all gone. Nothing was left on our street but a layer of filth on the sidewalks. Now we just need a good rain and the purification will be complete.