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History of the Fallas in Valencia

Origin of the Fallas

The Fallas is a fire ritual. Throughout the history of mankind, there have always been rituals related to this element because it symbolizes the renewal: destroys the old stuff to leave place to the new one. It is normal to see the shores of the Mediterranean in lit bonfires to mark the entry of the summer solstice, or to burn dolls that represent characters rejected by the neighborhood.
The origin of the feast Las Fallas has not yet been resolved with accuracy. The most popular theory says that it derives from a custom that had the Valencian carpenters in order to collect all the wood that was remaining them to build a bonfire in honor of its patron, Saint Joseph, March 19.
It is also said that the Fallas come from the fires lit at the beginning of the summer solstice, which Christianity adopted dedicating them to the saints celebrated in those time of the year, as the holy before mentioned. This could explain the large pagan component of the feast.
On the other hand, some people support the version of the «ninot mitja Quaresma» (doll half Lent) or «parot». According to it the Fallas arise from the custom of throwing a doll representing Luther, Judas or another character, to the fireplace. This theory would explain the existence of figures in the fallas (monuments mounted during the feast) and the censor and satirical nature of the monuments.
There are no written sources about exact moment of the appearance of these popular holidays. The earliest documents are from the second half of the 18th century, when the feast was already consolidated. At this time arose several municipal laws governing the location of monuments to prevent fires. Already in the 19th century, documents about the Fallas become frequent.
However, the Fallas of that time were different. The feasts were considered holiday eve of San José. Usually the people placed the monument (falla) in the morning of March 18 and burnt it the same night. Its structure simulated a theater: a wooden pallet on which placed several «ninots» representing a scene, which is accompanied by explanatory signs. «Ninots» of that era was a wooden structure dressed in authentic clothing and mask with cardboard, while now are completely of papier-mâché or similar. In addition to the monument also had other fallas made from old junk.
Since the last third of the 19th century the feast began to expand. The number of fallas ranged from year to year, one in 1852 to 16 in 1872. Since 1866 pyrotechnics became more present, «despertaes» are introduced and some «llibrets» (publication that publishes every participant) appeared. The neighborhood groups that make fallas increased and first commissions with management charges arose. In 1873 it was introduced «cremà» (monuments burning) on day 19 in the evening, but the «plantà» (monuments mounting) was not moved to this day, with which the celebration days came up to two. However, the town hall of the time made it difficult to celebrate forcing permissions for the monuments (1851) and even charging taxes to do so since 1872. In addition, in 1851 a censorship about the Fallas was established to control the political, social and moral criticism of the monuments. These pressures got the definitive disappearance of the old junk fallas and that in 1866 any monument wasn’t mounted.
But the stubborn resistance of the neighbors and the media got significant discount of taxes to the Fallas, which, joined to the prizes for the best monuments awarded by the magazine «The Fireworks», led to that in 1887 the tradition was re-established, since that year 29 fallas were mounted.
At the end of the 19th century, this was already the most popular festival of Valencia.
The number of fallas grew and people began to mount them in many towns. They began to become larger, more elaborated and from new materials. In this context, cultural society Lo Rat Penat proposed the establishment of awards to the best fallas, and the City Council approved its creation in 1901.
The 1930s were the moment in which the fame of Fallas began to get a national and international level. In 1927 the Pro-Fiestas Assembly of San Jose met to coordinate and promote the feast. With the impetus given by this Assembly, the session increased money prizes to the fallas and divided them into two sections according to their cost. The week of the fallas was expanded in 1928, and «plantá” went forward to the night of the 16. That year the Central Fallas Committee, prelude to the Fallera Central Board was created. This Committee constituted some important acts such as the «Crida», the exhibition of the «ninot», the «Nit el Foc» (night of fire), the cavalcade and the election of eleven beautyful Falleras and a Queen of the Fallas, precedents of the Fallera Mayor of Valencia and his Court of Honor.
The Civil War ruined completely the feast, but at the end of the conflict the new consistory decided to re-establish it. The survived presidents and secretaries of the Fallas commissions met to found in 1939 the Junta Central Fallera to coordinate the feast.
Here a new period of censorship began, logically, in the topics of fallas, in that it was not advisable to allude to sex or political criticism. The Town hall incorporated new acts, for example the Holiday of the Clavariesa, precedent of the Gift to the Virgin. In the 1940 years the first modern Fallas commissions, with president, directors, officers, Fallera Mayor, banner and demarcation were instituted. The participants (falleros) began to meet in bars or locals to do so. The Junta Central Fallera created the special section for the awards and the delegation of children, and requires that any child is linked to a larger one.
Since the 1950s, the Fallas are growing dramatically in number of visitors and in economic size. In this decade, the «Nit del Foc» changed from 16 to 19 March and the Junta Central Fallera created the current black suit of fallero.
In the 60, the Fallas commissions already used the «casal» as a meeting place. The number of commissions rose almost without pause since 1960, reaching 200 in 1969. The infantile section and the feminine one were consolidated inside the commissions and the number of falleros in general was increasingly (28,000 in 1970, while in 1959 there were only 6,000). The fallas dimenssions were increasingly large, and began to highlight the Fallas of Na Jordana, el Pilar, La Merced and Convent Jerusalem – Mathematician Marzal, among others.
In the time of democracy in Spain the politicians became «ninots» with assiduity. The castles of fireworks left to be done in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in 1987 and went to the Turia River where there is more space. The «plantà» was changed to the night of March 15 and the «Nit de Foc» the 18. The rest of the history of the Fallas is still doing by the falleros, who do everything possible to adapt the feast to the new time.

The Fallas Today