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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Festivals of Las Fallas and La Magdelena, Valencia, Spain

A Fallas monument built and sponsored for Nou Campanar

March is the biggest month for celebrations in Valencia. In spite of our economic problems the show must go on in the name of Tradition and Custom. Perhaps it is just as well that we do have these things to cheer ourselves up, and the truth be told, the customs are really worth preserving.

Essentially these are springtime events that help us throw off the depression of the cold winter. The fact that both events rely heavily on noise to chase away old man winter is no coincidence. March begins promptly on the very first day with a mascletá, or daytime firework display at 2pm in the main city square in Valencia City.  Because it's a day event, the only possible purpose is to make lots of noise, the more the merrier. As the days move along the tiempo picks up pace leading to the planting of various monuments with a satirical theme around the city and the suburbs from the fifteenth to the nineteenth, at which time they are set on fire where they stand.

Many of the monuments will have cost about half a million euros to design and build, but when it's over, it's over. I always say, what a shame, but they ask, what do you want us to do with them?

Normally, the party begins with Las Fallas in Valencia City until the 19th, followed by the Festaval of La Magdelena in Castellón de la Plana, located about 50 kilometres north of Valencia City. Usually the dates for this would be March 26th till April 3rd, however, this year, because of conflicting dates La Magdelena began on the 10th March and continues untill the 18th.

La Magdelena celebrates the birth of the city of Castellón 700 years ago, and is  nine days of continuious events that are similar yet different than what goes on in Valencia City. They too make a lot of noise with both daytime and night time fireworks. There are lots of parades and wonderful costumes; dancing in the streets, brilliant  monuments of lights, that are not burned, in the principal parade known as the Gaiatas.

It is simply not possible to commit to words the spontaneity and sheer joy that these events generate; nor the passion and feeling that those participating experience, especially in the Ofrendas of flowers to The Virgen. How do I explain what makes a person carry flowers and walk for hours to come into the presence of a wooden statute of La Virgen, and then burst into a flood of tears.

This is really one of those things you must experience for yourself. Once experienced, never forgotten.

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael