March 19 - San Jose / Fallas

March 19 is a officially a holiday in Spain. Many businesses will be closed with only the bar, restaurant, taxis and few others remaining operational.

The festival is that of the husband of the Virgin Mary. St. Joseph or San Jose as he is known here in Spain, gives his name to the day and as he is the father of Christ it is also father's day. In Valencia the festival day also coincides with the world famous Fallas, a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed.

The final day of the fallas falls on San Jose and it is a well known festival full of colour and celebration. Fires are held across the city of Valencia and many other towns in the region to honour San Jose. The main part of the festivities last 5 days and include fireworks, mascletas, flower offerings and parties in all parts of the city. The festival builds to the final day that always coincides with the 19th day of March, San Jose.

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Money is raised all year by associations to fund the celebrations and the effort has been rewarded as the festival is now a world heritage list UNESCO. It has long been debated where the festival came from but it seems many towns of the region have their own version. A sort of pagan ritual that dedicates the flowers and fire to the coming of Spring and the survival of winter.

One of the stand out features of the festivities are the large structures, carefully carved into amusing or controversial scenes and depictions. These statues are iconic and the associations take great pride in producing them, nearly 700 in total adorn the streets. On the final day they are all consumed by the fire and used as a centre piece for the crowds to gather around. Each region has it's turn to burn their statue, all except one that is saved by the public vote. A statue X-factor, with the winner being displayed in the museum.

The fallas are a world spectacle. An experience to be enjoyed at least once in a lifetime but be warned the festival attracts mass crowds and can become claustrophobic in the night time commotion. The addition of fire means this could be intimidating to some.