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Fallas: Valencia on Fire

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Valencia erupts in a blaze of colour and noise for the Fiesta de las Fallas, March 12 to 19. During the year, each barrio or neighbourhood builds satirical caricatures or fallas, some as tall as buildings. These begin to appear in the plazas at the beginning of March and are judged and awarded prizes before being set alight at midnight on March 19, the Nit de Foc – traditionally, carpenters celebrated the beginning of spring by decorating the torches (foc in Valenciano) they used over winter and adding them to a ritual bonfire. The fallas are ignited in succession – and the last to go up are the prize winners. Each falla has a small model or ninot beside it, usually created by the children of the barrio. These are exhibited in La Lonja before the fiesta begins, and the best displayed in the Museu Fallero; the rest are burned with the fallas.

During the fiesta, processions of falleros, dressed in traditional costume and accompanied by bands, carry flowers to the Plaza de la Virgen, where they are massed to create the skirt of a huge statue of La Virgen. The daily Las Mascaletas firecracker display (2pm in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento) sees the whole city racing to this central square for a ten-minute series of body-shuddering explosions. There are also nightly fireworks, bullfights, paella contests in the streets and chocolate y buñuelos stalls. Finally, around 1am on March 19, the falla of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento goes up in flames, followed by the last thunderous firework display of the Nit de Foc.

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