Location: Valencia, Spain. The fireworks displays are in Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

Dates: 12–19 March

 

 

Description: Exuberant and anarchic, Las Fallas is Europe’s wildest spring party, which is a pretty big deal for what is essentially a glorified puppet show. It’s a time when the city is all but taken over by the fallas, which are huge sculptures of papier-mâché on wood, built by teams of local artists. Each neighbourhood sponsors its own falla, and when the town wakes after the plantà (overnight placement of the fallas) on the morning of 16 March, more than 350 have been erected. Reaching up to 15m in height, with the most expensive costing more than €350,000 to build, these grotesque, colourful effigies satirise celebrities, current affairs and local customs.

Though the festival begins on 12 March, it doesn’t really get going until after the plantà. The fallas are placed at various locations around the city and you have four days to wander about checking out the displays as well as revelling in the around-the-clock festivities, which include street parties, paella-cooking competitions, parades, open-air concerts and bullfights.

What Las Fallas truly prides itself on is fireworks, with afternoon shows that also reach their peak on 16 March. Valencia considers itself the pyrotechnic capital of the world and each day at 2pm a mascletà (more than five minutes of deafening thumps and explosions) literally shakes the city, so much so that pregnant women are banned from attending a mascletà…this could be one of the loudest events you’ve witnessed.

Unsurprisingly, Las Fallas’ grand finale involves fireworks when, at midnight on the final day, each falla goes up in flames in another fiery explosion, with months of work turning to ash in seconds. Thirty minutes after midnight, it’s the turn of the falla judged the festival’s best to be burned. It’s hardly the spoils of victory.

Las Fallas is held in honour of St Joseph’s Day (19 March), though it’s said to trace its origins to a pagan celebration of the spring equinox. The first records of the festival are from the late 15th century. Banned in the mid-19th century, and then taxed almost out of existence, the fallas were revived in the 1880s. Today, the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Essentials: Come prepared for a manic few days. Maps are available to guide you between the fallas displays – pick one up at the regional tourist office at Calle Paz 48.

Local Attractions: Visit the aesthetically stunning Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts & Sciences), which is mostly the work of local architect Santiago Calatrava, designer of the new World Trade Center site in New York. Inside, you can go marine at the Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium.

More Info: 
Valencia Tourism & Convention Bureau (www.turis valencia.es)

Source: worldnomads.com

When: April 30
Where: Edinburgh, UK

The modern Beltane Fire Festival is inspired by the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane which began on the evening before May 1 and marked the beginning of summer. The modern festival was started in 1988 by a small group of enthusiasts including the musical collective Test Dept, with academic support from the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Since then the festival has grown, and as of 2006 involved over 300 voluntary collaborators and performers with the 11500 available tickets selling out.

It is important to remember that while the festival draws on a variety of historical, mythological and literary influences the organisers do not claim it to be anything other than a modern celebration of Beltane, evolving with its participants.

Fire festival dancers, 2006

The current Beltane was started in 1988 by a small group of enthusiasts including Angus Farquhar of the musical collective Test Dept., choreographer Lindsay John, and dancers from Laban, as well as academics from the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. The event was intended as a celebration and also a protest against the then Thatcher government’s restrictions on rights to gather. Originally intended to take place on Arthur’s Seat, the home of earlier Edinburgh Beltane celebrations, for practical reasons the location was moved to Calton Hill. Choreography, iconography and performance were moulded by the originators’ research into historical accounts of Beltane and their own influences (e.g. Test Department’s drumming, Trinidadian carnival, and ritual dance and performance).

The Beltane Fire Society, a registered charity which runs the festival, is managed by a democratically elected voluntary committee, and all the performers are volunteers who either join by word of mouth or by attending one of the advertised open meetings held early in the year. Senior performers and artists in the society help others through workshops with aspects of event production, prop construction, character performance techniques, team building, percussion skills and the health and safety considerations involved. The society has also held fundraising art and music events and has held a ‘mini-Beltane’ at a local AIDS Hospice, Milestone House.

As a community event, each year the performance has evolved as new people bring their own influences and directions. The core narrative remains by and large the same though additional elements have been added over time for theatrical, ritual, and practical reasons. Originally an event with a core of a dozen performers and a few hundred audience, the event has grown to several hundred performers and over ten thousand audience. Key characters within the performance are maintained, though reinterpreted by their performers, and additional participants incorporated each year.

Originally, the festival was free and only lightly stewarded, however, as the event has grown in popularity, due to the capacity of the hill, funding requirements, and Edinburgh Council requests, the festival has in recent years moved to being a ticketed event.