Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fallas (pronounced fah-yas)

No post this past weekend because I couldn’t concentrate for the noise.

It’s Fallas week in Valencia, the Spring festival when hundreds of pretty girls parade in mock-18th-century aristocratic costumes made of sumptuous brocades, and with golden adornments in their hair. Streets are bejewelled at night with arcades of coloured lights - a million bulbs in the largest of them - and giant comic, satirical effigies block some 150 street crossings throughout the town. At midnight on Friday, all the effigies will be burnt simultaneously, a year’s work by a guild of artists and artisans spiralling sky high in a city-wide bonfire said to symbolize disdain for worldly possessions.

However, there’s another side to Fallas. Valencians love fireworks - so do I - but more than the colour of the fireworks they love the noise. I suspect they early on develop exceptionally strong eardrums. The mortar blasts each day at 2 pm in front of the City Hall reach 120 decibels and masses of children of all ages come from far and wide to experience them. Kids eight years old can buy firecrackers to let off in the street, and from 12 they can buy ones that really make passers-by jump. Since we live on the main square of a district of Valencia, we hear it all; the only let-up is when the children go to eat.

Holy Week isn’t such a big deal in Valencia as it is in other parts of Spain. By then the Valencians have emptied their energy and their wallets for Fallas.

There’s a terminology in Valencian for the traditions. Here’s a sample.

Falla: a giant satirical effigy, accompanied by a smaller one for children, the falla infantil. The plural in Valencian is Falles.
Ninot: one of the smaller figures surrounding or attached to the main falla.
Fallera: a young woman who participates and who wears the costume. The queen of the falleres is the Fallera Major.
Adreç: set of hair ornaments and costume jewellery worn by the falleres. There are terms for the other components of the costume, and there's a costume for men.
Espolin: the silk brocade from which the richest dresses are made. It's still hand woven on 19th-century wooden looms.
Casal: club house of the Fallas association of each district.
Cridà (call): The inaugural speech by the Fallera Major calling on all Valencians to join the festivities.
Plantà: the inauguration of the effigies.
Cremà: the burning of the effigies.
Mascletà: a long, deafening, orchestrated blast of firecrackers.
Nit del foc (night of fire): a super fireworks display.
Despertà (awakening): an early morning round of the streets by a group throwing loud firecrackers in all directions to rattle people from their sleep.

Josep Lacreu et al. Salt3. Valencia: Generalitat Valenciana, Conselleria d’Educació, Servici d'Assessorament Lingüístic i Traducció, c2007. http://www.edu.gva.es/polin/val/salt/apolin_salt.htm.
Although promoted for machine translation, this software includes an excellent dictionary of Valencian for humans and can be downloaded free.

Rafael Catalá, tejedores desde 1770. http://www.rafaelcatala.com/sala_prensa.html#

Photo: www.visitingvalencia.com

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