Wicker Man

The tradition of torching statues is alive and well in the city of Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Valencianos are ethnically Gallic; Catalan is their principal language.

The “Fallas” festival is said to have originated in antiquity as a pagan festival of the Spring Equinox. The earliest written references to it, though, appear in the 15th century, in an account of members of the Valencian carpenter’s guild burning statues in honor of their patron saint.

I went to the Fallas in March of 1996. Valencianos will build several hundred fallas of all shapes and sizes, usually making them caricatures of political and social figures of the day.

On the eve of the last day of the Fallas, the statues (called “fallas”) are burned in order from the smallest, maybe four or five feet high, to the largest, which is constructed in the central plaza. The one I saw in '96 must have been more than 25 feet high.

Since Valencia is very much a medieval town in its construction, all the buildings are very close together. The smaller fallas are often burned between these spaces, so that the fireman have to spray the sides of buildings to keep them from going up in flames. Often, balconies and overhangs will get singed, but no one seems to mind.

The largest falla, that year a rider on horseback, burned in an enormous conflagration. It became very symbolic of the indominable esprit (or nationalism, depending on your view) of the Valencianos, since it’s wire and wood frame never toppled over in spite of the intense flames. My lady friend and I watched it for 2 hours before we decided to head back to Madrid ahead of the crowds. I heard later that it burned for more than 8 hours, and never toppled over.

Oh yeah, speaking of burning, a lot of people were smoking dope.

[puts on Arnold Winkleried mask]
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[takes off mask]

Ack, I can’t breathe under there!

Welcome to SDMB, Jordi Pujol.

Did the Celts burn human sacrifices in a huge “wicker man”?

Wow, Cecil, I must humbly quibble with the master: “Caesar wasn’t the type to retail wild stories.”

Apparently you have forgotten Caesar’s descriptions of the animals in the Hercynian Forest. I recall Caesar describing elk without leg joints that could only sleep by standing up and leaning against trees.