On the second Sunday of May, Valencia celebrates its patroness, the Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken), with a lethargic and low-key event. Subdued worshipers calmly line the Plaza de la Virgen, offering whispered prayers and privately reflecting on their faith as their beloved icon passes quietly by. (Are you detecting any sarcasm, here? Because I’m laying it on pretty thick.)
Every year, regular life in Valencia comes to a screeching halt, as the city gives itself over to Fallas: a spectacular celebration of art, light, noise and fire that runs from the end of February to March 19th. It’s a festival unlike any other, and comprises so many different elements that we felt a concise explanation might in order. What is Fallas, exactly?