Valencia March 2009 L’Ofrenda floral. This is what is known as the “Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados”, a floral offering to the Kingdom of Valencia’s patron saint, Our Lady of the Forsaken. All the Fallas Committees take part in this event, decked out in their finest, to present their bouquets of flowers to the enormous image of the Virgin which stands in the centre of the plaza named after her, overlooked by her Basilica.
This occurs all day on their days of March 17th and March 18th. The virgin’s body is then constructed with these flowers. The Falles (in Valencian) are a Valencian traditional celebration in praise of Saint Joseph in Valencia, Spain. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments created during the celebration.
Each neighbourhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous speciality paella. Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt. A casal faller is also known as a comissió fallera.
The name of the festival is thus the plural of falla. The word’s derivation is as follows:
falla ← Vulgar Latin *facla ← Latin facula (diminutive) ← Latin fax, “torch”. There are a few different theories regarding the origin of the Falles festival. One theory suggests that the Falles started in the Middle Ages, when artisans put out their broken artifacts and pieces of wood that they sorted during the winter then burnt them to celebrate the spring equinox. Valencian carpenters used planks of wood to hang their candles on. These planks were known as parots. During the winter, these were needed to provide light for the carpenters to work by. With the coming of the Spring, they were no longer necessary, so they were burned. With time, and the intervention of the Church, the date of the burning of these parots was made to coincide with the celebration of the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of the carpenters.
This tradition continued to change. The parot was given clothing so that it looked like a person. Features identifiable with some well-known person from the neighborhood were added as well. To collect these materials, children went from house to house asking for Una estoreta velleta (An old rug) to add to the parot. This became a popular song that the children sang to gather all sorts of old flammable furniture and utensils to burn in the bonfire with the parot. These parots were the first ninots. With time, people of the neighborhoods organized the process of the creation of the Falles and monuments including various figures were born.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the Falles were tall boxes with three or four wax dolls dressed in cloth clothing. This changed when the creators began to use cardboard. The creation of the Falle continues to evolve in modern day, when largest monuments are made of polyurethane and soft cork easily molded with hot saws. These techniques have allowed Falles to be created in excess of 30 meters.