The last Sunday of February is a busy day in Valencia. It starts early with the despertà, which awakens the city with a bang. There are events throughout the day, including pilota matches, marching bands, and a mascletà in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. But Fallas doesn’t officially begin until the evening, with the celebration of the Cridà.
Thousands of people pack onto the stone bridge in front of the Torres de Serrano, hours before the Cridà (the “calling”) is set to start. Most of them come in groups, along with the members of their casal (neighborhood organization). Some the girls have their peineta (hair combs) affixed, many of the guys are carrying flags or trumpets or beer, and almost everyone is wearing the ubiquitous blue-and-white checkered pañuelos (handkerchiefs) of Fallas.
The opening of the Cridà is different each year — it was a light show in 2015, and we’ve also seen acrobatics and concerts — but the act which follows is always the same: assorted dignitaries take the stage alongside the Fallera Mayor and her court. The city’s mayor gives a short speech, and then the Fallera Mayor officially opens the festival with a rousing call for Valencians to celebrate their culture, language and traditions by participating in Fallas.
Immediately following the Fallera Mayor’s speech, the Cridà ends with fireworks over the Turia riverbed. The groups which had been crowding the bridge alternatively make their way home to sleep, or over to the Plaza de la Virgen to dance, depending on their energy level and level of intoxication. We might be showing our age, here, but we think the sleepers have the right idea — after all, Fallas has just started. No reason to overdo things on the first night; it’s going to be a long month.