At 11:30 pm last Friday, a sword held by the bride and groom cut through a massive wedding cake during our friend Hector's wedding. Our family was lucky enough to be invited because it was a true cultural experience, as well as one of the best times we have had yet in Spain. Even though the wedding began at 6:30 pm, at midnight people were asking us if we were going to stay for the "party." We realized early on that weddings, like most parties in Spain, require commitment and stamina. We are glad that we embraced the experience as best we could, returning home at 3:00 am with the party still continuing in the distance until around 5:30 am.
Valencia is a city to fall in love with. It's not love at first site, granted, but a growing love that makes you feel connected. It's not like Barcelona or Sevilla, filled with antigua that draws people from everywhere to visit in awe. Valencia is a place you can live. You can find a regular doctor, go to yoga in the park, walk the Turia river with everyone else that lives here, find a favorite cafe, and get behind the local futbol team.
It's hard to fathom the spectacle that ends Las Fallas. We would never see such unmonitored danger anywhere in the United States, but in Spain, it is taken in stride. The burning of every Fallas statue in almost every plaza in Valencia, as well as many plazas in all the surrounding towns at midnight is what is known as La Crema. Keep in mind, most of the Fallas are around 40 feet or more and right in the middle of urban squares, often less than several feet from a wall or business. I wasn't sure what to expect or how to envision the final burning. However, there is an order to the madness. The burning of the Fallas begin at midnight and take place one at a time, until the final Fallas in the main town square is lit at 1:00 am. So, the fire department does go to each Fallas as a precaution. When they get there, they spray the neighboring buildings with water. Each Fallas has a rope around a small area surrounding it to keep people from actually getting too close. Before each Fallas is lit, fireworks are set off above the Fallas that is about to be set ablaze, notifying the crowds of its location. Then fireworks are lit inside the Fallas, setting it on fire.
Yesterday's Las Fallas activities switched over to a different view into Spanish culture through a celebration of community and tradition called The Gift of the Flowers. It was a reminder to me to pause and recognize the moment. I felt like I could be living in the pages of a National Geographic article. But, after living here for almost a year, it changes your perspective when you know people who are participating. It reminds you that the people you see aren't just symbols of the past, but lead regular modern lives, while consciously keeping their traditions alive.
I embarrassed my family yesterday in Valencia while we were waiting to cross the street. A loud boom that rattled the street signs went off behind me and I screamed. Now, this would seem like a reasonable response to most people, unless you live in Valencia. The festival of Las Fallas is a festival of fire, but it has morphed into a festival of all things explosive. Even though Las Fallas officially takes place every 15-19 of March, it really starts at the end of February. As we have learned in Spain, it's not just the party that matters, but the lead-up to the party.
It is 2:00 in Valencia on March 11 and loud booming can be heard throughout the city and into the countryside. A massive plume of blueish smoke rises above the old town and spreads across the city. For anyone that does not know what is going on, awful ideas could fill your head: a bomb, a city fire, an air strike. But, looking around, most people seem unfazed. This is because the booming marks the beginning of the annual Valencian celebration of Las Fallas.
Sally and her family moved to Spain for a year from July 2017 - July 2018. They lived in a little town called Puzol, which is about 20km north of Valencia. Her kids, Carson and Celia, attended the American School of Valencia, an International School located in Puzol. The goal for the whole family was to experience another way of life, and learn Spanish.