Visiting the Las Fallas festival in Valencia, Spain

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Published March 19, 2013

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Visiting the Las Fallas festival in Valencia, Spain

Visiting the Las Fallas festival in Valencia, Spain

Fire and noise are central to the Las Fallas festival in Valencia, Spain.  Millions of revellers descend on the city each year to enjoy the amazing fallas --or monuments, fireworks and open-air music concerts. There are more than 300 fallas dotted around the city--works of art, constructed of wood, cardboard and other materials.

The origins of the festival began when Valencia’s carpenters celebrated spring by setting fire to their unused wood cuttings in a bonfire in the neighborhood square.

Today, constructing the fallas is a year-round process of fundraising, design, construction and camaraderie. 

All that work literally goes up in smoke marking the end of the festival. They will get torched late Tuesday, March 19, and the fires are expected to burn into the wee hours of the following morning.

Here is a look at some of the top ones.

Falla Convento

Falla Convento took overall first place this year and cost more than $300,000 to build. It features a caricature of Germany's president essentially holding the money, while Portugal and Greece are shown sinking, and the president of Spain has a rope around his neck. Mariam Burdeos, Fallera Mayore of Falla Convento told Fox News, "The message is, who pays, is who decides."  As this falla's official ambassador, Burdeos noted it is the group's 14th time in its 120 year history to win first place.  An impressive feat considering how expensive these fallas are and the fact there are so many vying for attention.

Fallas Na Jordana

The centerpiece of Fallas Na Jordana is a Trojan Horse.  The message is that many years have passed since the mythical tale of the Trojan horse and wars which shaped Europe, yet it is still important to keep Mediterranean culture alive.  The Trojan horse for this display was actually carted across the river and into the city when it was time for final assembly.

Falla Pilar

Falla Pilar sits in a small, intimate square, practically touching its neighboring buildings.  

Like many fallas, this too is laden social criticism. It's essentially is a riff on the Spain's King Juan Carlos who went on an expensive hunting trip to Africa amid the country's economic crisis. The falla shows someone who married into the royal family taking off with suitcases of money. 

One of the biggest challenges was to get its pieces down the narrow street before assembling in the spot where it will meet a fiery death.  In fact, the hair of a horse at the top had to be cut off to make room for arrival.

It cost about $227,000 to make, and the group behind the falla worked all year long to raise the money with lottery ticket sales and special events.

Falla Nou Campanar

The theme of this momument, called Falla Nou Campanar, is again times of crisis.  It shows a family precariously walking over a house of cards. One of the figures atop the cards is a pregnant woman pushing a baby carriage.  

The neighborhood association has been in existence for only about ten to 15 years --a relative newcomer -- but has quickly made a name for itself  for being the largest and most expensive falla after a construction magnate controversially dumped a lot of money into past competitions.

Although it is worth noting that around Valencia this year, the buzz is that groups are feeling the pinch and displays are noticeably smaller or less ornate than previous years.

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