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Monday, March 17th, 2014

A beginner’s Guide to Las Fallas – some basic terms you need to know

MascletàEspecially for those visiting Valencia for the first time, this glossary of basic terms will help you make your way around Las Fallas, the city’s spectacular springtime festival.

Falla: This term refers to both the committee of falleros who build the figurines and scenes, as well as the monument itself, whether it be in large or miniature (for children).

Remate: Although in Spanish this word also means volleying a kick in football, during Las Fallas it relates to the finishing piece added to the falla; the highest point and the one which requires the greatest risk. Remates placed on the largest of fallas can be as high as 30m.

Plantà: Officially celebrated on 15 March (14 for children’s fallas), this is action of “raising” the falla monument itself. Most fallas are erected a few days before the 15th. The most common way is the so-called plantà al tombe which consists of a large group of falleros who, with great strength, manually build the elements of the monument.

Ninot: Each of the figurines that make up the falla.

Escena: This refers to the ‘scene’ created by the ensemble of figurines, which may represent a comical, satirical or provocative tableau.

Cremà: Referring to the act of ‘burning’, this heated event is held on the afternoon of the 19th (for children’s fallas) and at night (for the large fallas), and as its name suggests, involves setting the fallas alight.

Mascletà: Held in the central Plaza del Ayuntamiento, from 1st to 19th March a fireworks company is in charge of setting off hundreds, even thousands of explosives in rhythmic succession until the final climax.

Despertà: Each falla committee quietly and discreetly meets at about 8 o’clock in the morning, having slept or not, in order to wake up the neighbourhood with a series of firecrackers, occasionally accompanied  by marching bands. Firecrackers are also thrown, exploding as they hit the ground, known in Valencian as trons de bac.

Masclet: This refers to slightly larger and very noisy firecracker that is sure to make any bystander jump a mile. Other well-known types are the ‘borracho’ firecrackers (meaning ‘drunk’), for their zigzagging and out-of-control path, making their final explosion impossible to predict.

CremàBunyols: Known in Spanish as buñuelos, these doughnut-like pastries are made of flour and fried in oil, usually eaten accompanied with hot chocolate. Commonly a breakfast or afternoon snack, during Las Fallas, any time of day is acceptable to enjoy bunyols. They are often made with pumpkin (bunyols de carabassa).

Ofrenda: On the afternoons of 17 and 18 March, hundreds of thousands of falleros parade through Valencia’s main streets; Calle San Vicente and Calle de La Paz, as they head towards the culminating square of the Plaza de la Virgen to pay homage to Valencia’s patron saint, La Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken).

La Geperudeta, La Maredeueta: These affectionate nicknames as used by general Valencians or falleros to refer to their patron saint, La Virgen de los Despamarados. The name ‘Geperudeta’, meaning ‘hunchback’, relates to her slightly tilting head and downward-facing gaze in the sculpture which can be seen in Valencia’s Basilica.

Día de San José: This is synonymous with 19 March, also the Día de la Cremà (the day when the fallas are set alight). As Jesus’ father, Saint Joseph (San José) was a carpenter and consequently, owing to the origins of Las Fallas, is the patron saint of the festival. Las Fallas is also known as the ‘fiestas josefinas’ and ‘Fallas de San José’.

Casal: Premises situated on the ground floor of a building which are used by members of the fallera committee.

Carpas: This name refers to the large tarpaulin street stalls which have grown in number over the past few years in Valencia; for many fallera committees, they serve as a second casal for the overspill of its members.

Valla: Meaning ‘fence’ in Spanish, logically this term describes the barriers put in place to cut off streets from traffic to allow committees to build their falla, or for traditional dances to be held in a square.

Palito: These are prizes awarded to the committees by various organisations. The most important are handed over by the Junta Central Fallera, an institution that watches over the entire celebration of Las Fallas. These prizes mostly consist of streamers hung from the tip of a metal pole.

Llibret: This is the pamphlet created by each committee which includes the festival programme, as well as descriptions of the fallas, photographs, publicity for nearby businesses and more.

Dansà: The performance comprising a series of Spanish regional dances, such as jotas and boleros, by dancers who form part of the fallera committees. Although seemingly spontaneous and performed right in the middle of the street or square, they shouldn’t be confused with a flash mob or Harlem Shake.

Tabalet i dolçaina: Valencian musical instruments which feature prominently throughout the week of Las Fallas. The tabelet ressembles a drum whlist the dolçaina is flute-like in sound which, to an unaccustomed and perhaps less appreciative ear, may sound slightly grating.

DansàTorrentí y saragüell: These refer to the traditional costumes worn by falleros which, fortunately, have come to replace the black apparel with a sash that dominated men’s costumes for most of the 90s, also known as the ‘cockroach costume’ (traje de cucaracha).

Nit del Foc: During the nights of 15th to 18th March, an impressive firework display known as a ‘castillo’ is held from the old Turia riverbed. The Nit del Foc, 18 March, features a larger firework display, and even sometimes two, as one of the final and most important festivities before the culminating cremà, or burning of the fallas on the 19th.

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