Some people just want to watch the world burn, but fire doesn’t necessarily have to be destructive, evidenced by these three cultural festivals celebrated every March.
1. Las Fallas
Las Fallas, literally meaning “the fires” in Valencian, is an annual festival held in Valencia, Spain. The fiesta revolves around the creation and the eventual incineration of Ninots (“puppets” or “dolls”), which are giant cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster statues. These ninots are extremely lifelike and usually depict bawdy, satirical scenes and current events and can be several stories tall. These constructs need to be moved with the aid of cranes on the day of La Plantà (the rising). The ninots remain in place until, the day known as La Cremá (the burning). The celebration commences early in the evening with young men using axes to chop cleverly-hidden holes in the statues and stuff them with fireworks. The crowds then begin to chant, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire excatly at midnight. Each year, one of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. This ninot is called the Ninot Indultat (the pardoned puppet) and is exhibited in the local Museum of the Ninot along with the other favorites from years past.
2. Molten Iron Throwing (Dashuhua)
The Molten Iron Throwing Festival (Dashuhua) is unique to the Yu County of China. The steel industry had always been developed in that region but the majority of the area lived in poverty. In a tradition that started 500 years ago, the community would donate scrap iron to the blacksmiths who would then heat and melt it at 1600 C. This molten iron is then flung into the air or onto a wall for a stunning fire/light display. The reason for this bizarre tradition is the fact that though the villagers found fireworks pretty, they couldn’t afford them like the rich aristocrats. Local blacksmiths participate every year wearing only sheepskin clothing and a hat for protection though apparently injuries are uncommon.
3. National Pyrotechnic Festival
The city of Tultepec, Mexico was well known for its pyrotechnic prowess since the 19th century. The city celebrated a festival for San Juan de Dios, the patron saint of fireworks makers until it was banned when a fire killed 61 people. The festival has now evolved into the modern National Pyrotechnic Festival (Feria de la Nacional Pirotécnia). It attracts scores of tourists for the stunning fireworks displays, musical concerts, dance performances, local food and a ceremonial release of paper balloons. The festival’s higlight is the pamplonada, a spin on the traditional Running Of The Bulls. Bull shaped structures built out of wood, wire, dried plants and cartonería and covered in fireworks. These bulls are paraded through the streets for hours while they are set ablaze. The Pyrotechnic Festival creates as much as $800,000 in revenue for the city as tourists come and shower in the burning embers of fireworks.