Fallas – Embracing Failure

Ah, failure. I’m intimately familiar with it in life and I even made a career of it at one point. Running an Innovation Lab will do that for you. Most of what you attempt will be thrown on the rubbish heap. Your ideas might be like uncorking wine before it’s time. Or it might just be a bad idea. Or the executive team simply has no vision – I’m not bitter. I’m not bitter. But right now we’re in the midst of the month of failure – FALLAS.

Fallas means failures. And Fallas in Valencia is essentially a fiesta celebrating failure. It’s something I can totally get behind. The origins of Fallas date back centuries to the workshops and artisinal guilds of Valencia. These might include furniture makers, sculptors, painters. Those with a creative bent, and dark winters spent honing their craft. Then at the spring equinox they would pile all their ‘failures’ into the streets and set them alight – bringing new meaning to ‘spring cleaning’ and ‘out with the old…’

We know the month of Fallas has officially begun as fireworks are going off constantly. Last night there was a live concert in the Jardin near our house playing hits from the 70’s. ‘Stop Children what’s that sound, everyone look what’s goin’ down’ by Buffalo Springfield, as we walked back from having a pequina frozen yoghurt con lacositos. I danced on the sidewalk and we loudly sang along frightening our neighbors. And this weekend, we had the morning Mascleta (epic daytime fireworks displays that burst your ear drums and rattle your insides) in front of the Ayuntamiento promptly at 8:05am, and again at 14:05pm. The fireworks stores (petardos) are open across the city and Jeff reminded me I’ll be needing to break out my wooden fireworks box so I can fit right in with the other 5 year olds on our block.

Our door rang today and our landing was filled with kids holding flags and holding out bags for me donate money to support our local Fallas. I keep jars of change near the door so that when kids come asking for donations I can make my contribution. But this year no Fallera was with them. That’s our local girl who has been nominated to represent our area in the city wide pageant for little girls whose parents pay tens of thousands of euros to have elaborate dresses made, gold combs and jewelry, and fake Princess Leia buns for the sides of their heads so they can have a hope of being the head Fallera de Fallas. We watched the crowning ceremony on t.v for the junior Falleras. This competition started last Fall and we ran across one of them as a hundred little girls and their families poured out of the science museum in the Cuidad de Artes y Ciencias one Sunday afternoon. This year’s winner was everything a Fallera should be and her parents openly cried with pride as she marched into the venue waving to the crowd to be place on her golden throne with a foot pillow placed under her feet by a Fallero (boy counterpart).

So I was more than a little disappointed when the little Fallera wasn’t in the group at our door today. We give A LOT to whomever comes to our door asking for donations for Fallas. But sometimes it hard to know what those knocking on our door are wanting money for. I think I’ve mistakenly given jars of money to survey takers and maybe the Correos guy (mailman). But the Fallas kids know they can come by any time they’re looking to raise money. I came back from the door with my Valencia flags I got for my 50 euros in change donation. I told Jeff I felt a bit slighted that we didn’t get the Fallera this year.

‘It’s because your’e a sure thing. They don’t need to work at it with you anymore. You’re the crazy American with jars of spare change by the door. I’m pretty sure they call you that on the street now. They’ve deployed the little Fallera to areas that need more attention.’

I was not happy.

‘That rolled off the tongue a little too easily. Am I a sure thing with you? With our kids, too?’ I’m a little horrified by that.

He just looked over his reading glasses at me, and being the wise man he didn’t respond and went back to his iPad.

And just now, we heard a feeble marching band go by. We looked our our window and there they were, the blue fleece matching jackets and the banner holder. The little Fallera, and then a few sad musicians (not even in uniform) announcing her procession down the street. You could tell their heart wasn’t in it. There were barely 30 people. The first year we lived here we didn’t know what to expect. Any procession was amazing. Last year, we had a better idea of how it should go, but still, we didn’t know if the previous year was an anomaly. But we’re 3 years in now. We’re Fallas veterans. And our motto is ‘If you’re going to process, freaking process! Put your back into, people! This little Fallera deserved nothing less!’

I commented on this to Jeff.

‘Well, what do you expect? That’s the Blue Team. Look at them, they could barely muster their tribe. Just imagine what their Falla will look like. Probably kind of sad. We’re Red Team. Our people are better organized. Just look at the new lights on our street this year. And the new flags and banners hanging over the street. We’ve got sponsorship from Cruz de Campo (the beer brand) this year.’

We do? How he knows this I don’t have a clue. But I do find it funny that ‘we’re Red Team’ came rolling out of his mouth. We have absolutely nothing to do with our local Fallas taller (workshop) except giving them money when they come to the door.

It’s early yet. It will be weeks before I’m so fed up with Fallas I’ll shout at fireworks as they go off. And tire of the Falleras around every bend. So for now, I’ll enjoy the fact that Fallas means Spring is almost here! The season of rebirth. This year I’m ready to embrace failure with the rest of them.