San Jose Fallas
The Valencian region annually marks the coming of spring with the San Jose Fallas festival. Huge papier-mâché models of characters are paraded around towns before being set ablaze as part of a spectacular display of music and fireworks. The roots of the celebration are thought to lie in the Middle Ages. Carpenters would use planks of wood as candle holders over the winter months and in celebration of the arrival of spring, they would burn these pieces of wood in the streets. Over time, this tradition was made to coincide with Saint Joseph’s (San Jose) day, the patron saint of carpentry. Not satisfied with burning plain planks of wood, the carpenters began dressing the wood in clothes and sculpting them to resemble people. The tradition has evolved beyond putting some pants on a bit of wood into an impressive display of artistic ability.
Throughout the year, locals create enormous papier-mâché models, called fallas, often several storeys tall. The statues tend to have a satirical edge to them, poking fun at famous figures such as politicians or celebrities; Barack Obama made an appearance in falla-form in Valencia City last year. The models are then put on display in the streets and paraded about town. Daily firework displays take place at 2pm. Types of particularly noisy firecrackers called mascletás are set off around the creations and bathe the area in noise and smoke.
It’s not all fun and games though; there is a competitive element to Fallas as different areas compete to create the finest sculpture in town. In Benidorm, a falla is constructed and displayed in each of three districts; the Central Falla, Rincon Falla and Els Tolls Falla, in a clash of craftsmanship.
After being on show for five days, the fruits of months of work are set ablaze on St Joseph’s Day, at the Cremà. At around midnight on the 19th of March a torch is put to each falla to the accompaniment of music, food and more fireworks. Flames tower into the night sky and push the crowds back with heat. So big is the ensuing inferno that the fire brigade will hose down nearby buildings and street furniture to prevent disaster.
Valencia holds the biggest Fallas in the region but this can be overcrowded. Denia and Benidorm host smaller versions of the celebrations where gaining a good view of a flaming falla is easier. The festivities take place between the 14th of March and St Joseph day on the 19th, when the fallas are burned.
For more information on Denia Fallas, click here. For more information on Benidorm Fallas, click here. Alicante airport and Drivalia Car Rental are around an hour’s drive from Denia and around forty minutes from Benidorm.