Every year the city of Valencia, Spain celebrates the ancient “Las Fallas” fiesta, a noisy week that is full of fireworks and processions in honor of Saint Joseph which climaxes in the burning of large paper mache figures displayed around the streets of the city.
Las Fallas is celebrated to commemorate St. Joseph’s Day, the Patron Saint of Carpenters. Las Fallas literally means “the fires” in Valencian. The focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots (“puppets” or “dolls”), which are huge cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster statues. The ninots are extremely lifelike and usually depict bawdy, satirical scenes and current events.
A popular theme is poking fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities. The labor intensive ninots, often costing up to US$75,000, are crafted by neighborhood organizations and take almost the entire year to construct. Many ninots are several stories tall and need to be moved into their final location of over 350 key intersections and parks around the city with the aid of cranes on the day of la plantà (the rising).
The ninots remain in place until March 19th, the day known as La Cremá (the burning). Starting in the early evening, young men with axes chop cleverly-hidden holes in the statues and stuff them with fireworks. The crowds start to chant, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire at exactly 12:00am midnight. Over the years, the local bomberos (firemen) have devised unique ways to protect the town’s buildings from being accidentally set on fire by the ninots: such as neatly covering storefronts with fireproof tarps. Each year, one of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. This ninot is called the ninot indultat (the pardoned puppet) and is exhibited in the local museum of the ninot along with the other favorites from years past.
Submitted by Ximena