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UNESCO declares Valencia’s Fallas Festival Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Fallas Festival in Valencia has been included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in recognition of the unique values of this centuries’ long tradi

The Fallas Festival in Valencia has been included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in recognition of the unique values of this centuries’ long tradition.

The announcement was made today in Addis Abeba following the meeting of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The festival joins La Lonja (Silk Exchange building) and the traditional meeting of the Water Tribunal in Valencia, which were also recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage in 1996 and 2009 respectively.

Every March during Las Fallas festival, hundreds of huge papier-mâché monuments (the fallas) fill up every square and crossroad in Valencia in the most colourful celebration of the arrival of spring. The fallas are true works of art that can reach up to 20 metres high and 20 metres in diameter. Satire, irony and humour combine in these oversized puppets, which often depict famous personalities in ridiculous clothes or far-fetched situations, in a sharp critique of current issues. After a few days on display, all the fallas are burnt in spectacular bonfires on 19th March, St Joseph’s day.

Besides the fallas themselves, the festival also includes daily fireworks displays, including the popular day-time mascleta at the City Hall Square, street concerts, and the colourful Flower Offering to Our Lady of the Forsaken, which sees thousands of falleros and falleras (locals dressed in traditional costumes) parading through the streets of Valencia.

The origin of the Fallas Festival dates back to the 18th century, when carpenters used to burn old furniture or pieces of wood, together with the candles that they had to use throughout the winter, in a special ceremony to simbolize the arrival of spring and honour St Joseph, their patron saint. This tradition evolved throughout time into the spectacular displays found today.

Valencia will be ready to welcome visitors once again for the first World Heritage Fallas Festival from 15-19 March 2017.