The deeply rooted Falles Festival is València’s flagship festa. Citizens of all classes get together in commissions falleres -falles committees or groupings- (more than 345 in València city), becoming the main participants in the celebrations. The festival is regulated by a Central Board (Junta Central Fallera), a municipal autonomous body, and it also involves thousands of people, visitors and tourists, who altogether create a great festive atmosphere with a significant economic impact on the city.
The Falles can be tracked down to the satirical catafalques made by neighbours in the mid 18th century and the bonfires they lit up next to farmhouses on L’Horta (València’s farming land). Over time the festivity came to be institutionalised with its complexity growing, and in the 1920s it started to be held over a week. The Setmana Fallera sections were introduced and positions such as fallera major of València (the Falles Queen) were developed together with new and multitudinous celebrations like award ceremonies, a flower offering to the Virgin, or firework displays.
Originally, the Falles catafalques were made by the residents, but from the 1930s a dedicated industry developed, with Falles artists making the monuments with their remarkable skills. The artists are grouped into a Crafts Guild -Artistes Fallers- and they do their work at what they call the ‘The Falles City’, in Benicalap District, where the Museum of the Falles Artists is also located. Today, artists have a command of numerous techniques and use a variety of materials to build the falles and their ninots (figures). Ever since 1934, the best ninot is chosen and preserved at another Museum (Museu Faller in Montolivet), thus escaping the fires. A collection of ninots can be admired there by tourists and citizens throughout the year.
Falles starts following the official call (Crida) from Serrans Gate. The monuments are erected (Plantà) in March. The special-section monuments are installed a few days earlier, but most of them (including the children’s ones) are set on March 15th. A jury visits all of them the following day and they announce the prizes. The Falles committees collect the prizes over the subsequent two days. The flower offering honouring the Geperudeta Virgin is one of the highlights, with more than 100,000 fallers parading to pay homage to their Holy Lady. Side activities are held by the comissions during the Falles week, but fallers are active all year long. The City Hall square is the venue of the daily mascletaes (day-time fireworks displays). Together with the night shows, the despertaes (early morning firecrackers) and the correfocs (parade with fireworks), they lure crowds of gunpowder lovers. The festive programme is completed by the Ninot, Children’s and Foc parades, taking place both at night and during the day. On March 18th at midnight, the Nit del Foc (fire night), a spectacular fireworks display is held.
March 19th is the day of València’s patron saint, Saint Joseph, the festa’s highlight. The patriarch is paid homage to in the morning with a floral offering, and the comissions have their last parades, culminating with mascletaes in each falles district. A fire procession takes place in the evening, with devils carrying torches announcing the cremà (the burning) of children's falles first and the big monuments afterwards in a genuinely popular pyrotechnical festival. The Falles festival was recently declared a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.