The Inscription of the Valencia Fallas Festivity on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Junta Central Fallera, 2012

The Valencia Fallas festivity was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on the 30 November 2016, by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The festivity was born in Valencia in the 18th century and at present is held in 160 municipalities with some 800 participating Fallas Commissions actively uniting around 200,000 ‘Falleros’ and ‘Falleras’ (volunteers for the commission who organise and partake in the festivity). The Fallas festivity has advanced far beyond the Valencian region and is held in other Spanish municipalities such as Barcelona and Majorca, as well as in other countries, for instance Argentina. It is also an important stimulus for many activities relating to the historic Silk Roads.  

The Fallas festivity is arguably one of the most important traditional celebrations of silk in Valencia, commemorating the city’s long Silk Roads history. It has brought about a resurgence of traditional Valencian silk costumes, bringing back styles from the 18th century. The famous traditional costumes, worn by the ‘Falleros’ and ‘Falleras’, are made using embroidered silks and special fabrics in various colours and patterns, thus preserving the tradition of using ancient manual silk looms for their production. In fact, Valencia is one of the few cities in Spain that still weaves silk on manual looms, this being a key aspect of the ‘Valencia City of Silk’ initiative in 2015.

Another feature of the Festivity is the giant ‘Falla’, a monument made up of caricature pieces created by local artists and craftspeople, which provides an often satirical commentary on contemporary social issues. Usually erected in a town square, the ‘Falla’ is an ephemeral construction, specially built over a period of several months by painters, sculptors and carpenters. It is set alight at the end of the festivity, on the evening of St. Joseph's Day, when it is burnt to ashes in a bonfire, symbolizing a rejuvenation of social activity. Throughout the festivity marching bands parade the roads, street food is bountiful and the ‘Falleros’ and ‘Falleras’ stage fireworks and other pyrotechnical activities. A so-called ‘Fallas Queen’ is also elected each year to promote the festivity and encourage locals and visitors to partake.  

The festivity is held annually from March 14 to 19 to symbolize the coming of spring, providing an opportunity for collective creativity and the safeguarding of traditional arts and crafts. It is also a source of community pride and contributes to cultural identity, thus enhancing social cohesion. In the past the festivity was a way of preserving the Valencian language at a time when it was prohibited, thus protecting and disseminating culture and knowledge, and to this day it still serves as a reminder of Valencia’s strong ties to the great Silk Roads. 

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