Our Thanksgiving Traditions

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a day where American families come together from across the country to eat copious amounts of homemade food, booze and maybe turn on a football game. Thanksgiving is a tradition in American culture that a lot of us take apart in. From the outside some might see it as a way to gorge oneself with a cornucopia of food.  The butterball on the table and the pigskin on the tube is not the point of Thanksgiving though. It is easy for us to get lost in all that food, booze, and family but in reality it is a time to step back and give thanks to the things we have. We find it important to remind ourselves that we should be grateful for our family, friends, and the food in our stomach and the roof over our heads. It is also a time to give and help the people who might not have the same opportunities. Food drives, and soup kitchens open up across country were meals are given to the less fortunate.

Thanksgiving is an important tradition for all us here in the United States and we all celebrate it a little different but we all have the same idea and that is the idea of being grateful and giving a little back to the community. I believe one should be grateful everyday that your eyes are open, but the holiday is a way to remind us to continue to appreciate the blessings bestowed upon us. People get caught up in everyday life and we can get stuck in the muck of all the things going on. So it is nice to have a day to remind us of what we have and how lucky we are to have it whether it’s big or small.

Thanksgiving traditionally was a way for the pilgrims to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and the agricultural year, hence the idea of having a table full of food. Tradition is important and I take tradition seriously. One of the many reasons why I travel is to learn about other culture’s traditions and if possible take part in them. So what are some of the traditions for Americans during Thanksgiving? It is a big family event and my family would all come together from all around the country to celebrate together. My favorite was when it was held at my house. I am bias towards my dads cooking and his food plus we lived on the beach and in November the weather was still nice. My dad would spend a few days before Thanksgiving preparing for an all day cooking session on that final Thursday of November.

When I was young I would make sure I was up early so I could watch my dad make pies. He would make more pies than I could remember and there was plenty of variety. The traditional pie of Thanksgiving is pumpkin and probably my family’s favorite. He would make more pumpkin then any other pie. My favorite was butterscotch because I got to lick the bowl and spoon afterwards. Some of his other pies would be lemon meringue, pecan, rhubarb, apple, and he would make multiple of each. He always told us that a pie is all in the crust and that you should learn how to make crust from scratch.  I would have to say pie is my favorite part of Thanksgiving.

Football is a classic event during Thanksgiving and it is always part of my family’s tradition. Traditionally two teams host the game the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. Each team host a different conference team every year on a rotating basis. There is also third game which had no set teams. Now football was always on but it was a way to gather together. It really acted as background noise as we drank beer, cocktails, wine, and, if you were a kid, soda.

We ate all day as my dad would deliver out little snacks and my mom always made sure that everybody had enough to munch on throughout the day. Now if you are a kid it is not always fun and games. If you wanted to lick the spoon from the pie fillings you had to learn how to shuck corn. Shucking corn was something that everybody in my family knew how to do.

Dinner on Thanksgiving is not at normal dinnertime for Americans. We tend to hold dinner in the early afternoon. Three pm is the normal time for the meal to start and it last all day or as long as you could go before you fall asleep. If you are Ashley, they eat the meal at a normal time but we all have our own tweaks. We all sat around the dining room table with a pop up table for the kid’s table with the food set up family style. Some years we would have too many people over and have a buffet instead and just crowd around the living room. One important tradition before we dug in was to say grace over the food and then go around the table saying what we were thankful for. After that it was time to dive on in. Now for my family what was traditionally served was a giant turkey, stuffing, spinach, yams with a marshmallow top, mounds of buttered mash potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, collard greens, roasted corn, and scallop potatoes. Throughout the meal the wine is flowing because what is a good meal with out a lot of vino? Oh and don’t forget the pie afterward and the homemade whip cream with a little spiced rum in it. Now I am sure I missing some classics and my family will surely let me know what I forgot. All families have tweaked their dinner to fit their taste.

Now this was my family’s tradition; food, family and drink have always been important to us, it is what brings us all together. I know other families play an actual game of touch football or not cook a meal at all and go out and eat Chinese which are usually the only places still open. Other families spend the day at a soup kitchen and pass out meals to the less fortunate; others go on vacation instead. No matter what Americans do for their Thanksgiving it all centers around the idea that we need to give thanks and remind ourselves to be thankful for everything we are blessed with. I wish all of our readers a Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you all get to spend it with the ones you love.

Ashley and I on the Via Appia

Side note:

Ashley and I have decided to start a new tradition feature. We want to highlight your cultures traditions. If you are interested in writing a guest post for our new tradition features please email us at inpursuitofadventure@gmail.com We would love to hear from you and love to have you teach us about your traditions.

Roses and the Pantheon

So for those of you who are not Catholic or went to Catholic school and promptly forgot everything (AKA ME) you may not realize that today is Pentecost.  You are probably wondering what that has to do with the Pantheon and roses, well every year on Pentecost they throw roses through the dome of the Pantheon.

I love the Pantheon so much that I would make sure I passed it on my way to work and almost always instagramed it :)
I love the Pantheon so much that I would make sure I passed it on my way to work and almost always instagramed it 🙂

I had been dreaming of going to this ever since I heard about it.  I LOVE the Pantheon, it is by far my favorite ancient monument and Hadrian is my favorite Roman Emperor.  He was eccentric, he traveled and he loved Greece and Architecture.  He is my hero and he built the Pantheon.  So you can imagine how excited I was to hear about this crazy rose petal thing.  Well being the awesome Catholic, non Catholic I am I had no idea when they did this!  Thank God Alex’s parents came to town for his graduation and knew when Pentecost was and all about the throwing of the roses.  We were able to get to the Pantheon that morning super early because it gets crowded and we secured a spot by the oculus.  We then stood through an entire hour and a half Pentecost mass.  It was actually really interesting even for this agnostic because I had not been to a traditional/important mass since I moved to Rome.

 

After the mass was finished, as the final prayers were being said all of a sudden roses started raining down from the ceiling.  It was so beautiful and awe inspiring and even though it only lasted about five minutes, it felt like forever.  I could have stood there all day and watched the roses fall from the ceiling.

The roses are just beginning to fall
The roses are just beginning to fall
As the roses fall from the oculus they play in the shadows
As the roses fall from the oculus they play in the shadows
Roses and the Pantheon
Roses cascading from the ceiling
Light and Roses
It was tough to catch how magical this event truly was. If you ever find yourself in Rome during Pentecost make time for this amazing experience

 

8 Lessons I learned from Walking 500 miles

First, allow me to introduce myself and my journey.  I’m Jenna, a 26 year old, who recently re-entered the ‘real world’ of full time work.  In June 2013 I decided that teaching high school PE was not for me. Gang violence, cultural divides, and battling administration was not how I saw myself starting my ‘dream job’.  So with three days left in the school year, I handed over my letter of resignation and sighed with relief.  I had given up a coveted East Bay teaching position for the great unknown. That summer I moved out of my Walnut Creek apartment, and settled in with my dad and brother at our family home.

The Camino de Santiago had been on my mind for a few years.  Introduced to me by my mom, the 500 mile pilgrimage across Spain sounded like something I needed to do.  One day in June, I came to the decision that I too, would join the thousands of ‘peregrinos’ and walk across Spain.  I pored over blogs, books, and yes watched ‘The Way’, to soak up as much knowledge as I could prior to my journey, and one hot day in August, I boarded a plane to Spain and was off. 500 miles is a long way, alone or in a group, and here is what I learned on my journey.

1.       Travel Light! 

Jenna's Backpack

My 35Liter pack weighed in at 14 pounds (without hydration).  That 14 pound pack was my lifeline for the next 30 days.  Two shirts, two shorts, shower sandals, LIMITED toiletries, socks and a jacket.  That was what was taking me to the finish line.  I met so many people with 25, 30 pound bags, and was secretly proud every time thinking that I was a female packing no makeup, or excessive clothing items.

2.       Small accomplishments contribute to the greater goal.  

Open Road

When you look at a map, it is easy to see the path for the Camino.  East to West, one can make a line and see the cities you pass through.  What one might forget is that that journey can take anywhere from 25-45 days.  Each day, you chunk off 15-25 miles, and when you look at the map, that doesn’t look like much.  I started to retrain the way I thought to recognize my small accomplishments, rather than thinking how much more I had left to do.

3.       The Camino Will Provide.

Stand on the Camino

So many times I found myself hungry, thirsty, or with blistered feet, and without proper supplies.  The kindness and generosity I experienced on the Camino is unlike anything I have ever seen.  Everyone is willing and ready to give, share, or nuture, regardless of language, cultural background, or hiking ability.  If you have a blister, someone almost instantly pops up ready to share their countries best healing technique.  The kindness can be found in the most unthinkable/random/dark/….. places, and helps you when you’re down.

4.       Travel Alone.

Jenna Walking on Her Own

I went off on this trip alone, and faced much criticism from friends at home.  Many thought I was crazy, or traveling alone because I did not have friends.  Hardly.  I was yearning for adventure, and not many people are as eager as I to take an insanely long ‘walking vacation’.  Being alone, I was able to meet some of the greatest people, and speak Spanish more freely than I ever thought possible.  My language abilities, coupled with my freedom of solo travel, instantly availed me to new friends, great conversation, or the coveted peace and quiet.

5.       You are never alone.

Group by the Fountain

Seems like the opposite of number 4, but its true.  Hundreds of thousands of Peregrinos walk the Camino.  Especially in the summer. Sleeping in municipal albergues, full of snoring people on bunk beds, and sharing community bathrooms, solitude was not something I was lacking.  At any given time on The Way,  I could look ahead or behind and see fellow pilgrims.  It was a comfort knowing that I could be walking alone, yet not entirely alone.  It might not make sense, but it did for me.

6.       Put your phone down.

Smiley Sunflower

More and more uncommon these days, but so true.  Traveling alone, I had the obligatory check ins with my family.  I also love talking to my mom, and will call her at any time.  I found myself seeking WiFi any where I went, at times being known as a WiFi person.  Not my proudest title.  It was a fine balance of disconnecting from the Western world, embracing my current town, yet sharing this incredible experience.  No matter what, family comes first, but if you put your phone down, you might see something new.

7.       Take a break.  

Foot Massage

About halfway through my Camino, I got incredibly sick.  Overworking my body, without adequate rest, and the stress of travel was bogging my down.  I immediately texted a fellow solo travel friend, and asked what to do when feeling this way.  She suggested a break.  I pulled up a google map (yes I was on the WiFi!), and looked where I was, and looked immeditly north.  I found Gijon, a northern Spain beach hot spot.  Within the hour, I booked a train, and my own beach front AirBnb apartment.  I was beyond thrilled to take a weekend away, and rest my body.  I spent the weekend alone, Wifi free, in a rainy beach town.  It was one of the most glorious experiences of the entire trip.

8.       Open up. 

New Friends

You never know who you will meet that has done, or will do the Camino.  I was at a garage sale in July before I left, and ended up talking to the woman hosting it.   Turns out, she is doing the Camino in April 2014.  We chatted that hot July afternoon, and still chat to this day as she prepares for her journey.  I am grateful to have met such a wonderful friend, and share the Camino as our common thread.

If you asked me one year ago, if this was what I would have been doing, the answer would be no, but if you ask me today if I am happy with my decision, the answer is abosultely.  The Camino is not for the light of heart, and will challenge every aspect of your being.  It can be the most beautiful thing, and at times, the hardest thing.  To this day, this was the hardest thing I have ever done.  Yet I would say that it is the most rewarding personal accomplishment I have made to this day. Would I do it again?  Quite possibly, and if I did, I might shock you and say that I would go alone.  Buen Camino everyone.

Jenna is currently a comfortable peregrina living in the East Bay with her family.  She works for Junior Achievement, and coaches a Junior Varsity lacrosse team.

Friday the 13th

View of the moon from my room in Rome
View of the moon from my room in Rome

Today is Friday the 13th and for most people that is a most ominous day however, for me, the idea of the 13th has never been a superstitious one for me. Maybe it’s because I’m part Italian. Italians, while insanely superstitious, actually consider 13 a lucky number. They are absolutely terrified of the number 17 however, and you almost never find that number used. You can bet that if they ever build buildings that high they will skip the 17th floor.

Italians have a lot of strange superstitions and I encountered many of them daily while living in Rome. One of the most ancient superstitions is the wearing of a chili pepper in order to ward off evil. Back in the ancient roman times they wouldn’t wear chili peppers though, instead the would wear phalluses or display them prominently outside their homes to ward off the evil eye. The phallus was supposed to give fertility and luck to the wearer while also keeping the evil eye at bay. Eventually the phallic symbol evolved into the chili pepper since once the Catholic Church came to power it was deemed unseemly to wear such graphic symbols around one’s neck. You can see most Italians carry some sort of chili pepper or horn to ward off evil. All the Italians I knew had them on key chains or hanging from their rear view mirror.

A typical Roman car where you could find some chili peppers hanging from the rear view mirror
A typical Roman car where you could find some chili peppers hanging from the rear view mirror

Many superstitions have to do with warding off evil and are religious based. Italians will make the sign of the horns with their fingers to ward off the evil eye or the devil or both. The sign looks exactly like the Texas longhorns sign if you know American college football. Often times you will see this sign being made surreptitiously to ward off evil in public. Italians also believe that touching iron is lucky and often carry around a small nail to touch in case anything causes them bad luck, like black cats. This is definitely an issue while in Rome since there are so many cats.

While the Romans may be afraid of black cats, Alex on the other hand makes friends with them
While the Romans may be afraid of black cats, Alex on the other hand makes friends with them
I also like black kitties too
I also like black kitties too

Italians also avoid seating 13 people at a table. They have no problem with the number 13 except in this context. 13 people is an unlucky number to have seated together because the Last Supper had thirteen people seated around a table and we all know how well that worked out for Jesus.

Poor Jesus had 13 people at his dinner table and it didn't work out too well for him
Poor Jesus had 13 people at his dinner table and it didn’t work out too well for him

Perhaps the most common superstitions I encountered had to do with the weather or more specifically the air. Italians are terrified of the air. If there is a light breeze in 90• weather they automatically put on a sweater. If the air conditioning is on at a restaurant they open the door. If you want to get out of doing something all you have to say is you don’t feel well because of l’aria (the air) and it may cause a febbre (a fever). It works like a charm, I promise.

This is the type of l'aria the Romans dread.  When it snowed nobody went outside for a week at least.
This is the type of l’aria the Romans dread. When it snowed nobody went outside for a week at least.

One of my favorite superstitions has to do with Mount Vesuvius. It is claimed that mount Vesuvius will not erupt as long as a miracle occurs twice a year. The miracle is that at the church of San Gennaro there is a vial of Saint Jennarius’ blood. Twice a year, once in May and once in September, the vial miraculously changes from a solid to a liquid. When this occurs it means that Mount Vesuvius will not erupt and no harm will befall Naples.

Snow covered Mount Vesuvius is safe for another year since San Gennaro's blood turned back to a liquid in September
Snow covered Mount Vesuvius is safe for another year since San Gennaro’s blood turned back to a liquid in September

These are just a few of the superstitions I encountered while in Italy. There are thousands of them and some are very regional while some, almost everyone believes in such as spilling salt spells bad luck and that to ensure good luck you must keep eye contact with those you are cheers-ing. Overall though the Italians are some of the most superstitious people I’ve met and I will be thinking of them on this lucky Friday the 13th.

Italians may be superstitious but they still lay claim to the Colosseum so I'll be back
Italians may be superstitious but they still lay claim to the Colosseum so I’ll be back

If you enjoyed this post on Italy check out some of our other awesome articles on the Boot:

Hadrian - Bad Ass Architect   Greek and Egyptian Elements reflect Hadrian's travels
Hadrian – Bad Ass Architect
Greek and Egyptian Elements reflect Hadrian’s travels at his Villa in Tivoli
5 Reasons Why I Love Pompeii The Men's Locker Room in the baths at Pompeii
5 Reasons Why I Love Pompeii
The Men’s Locker Room in the baths at Pompeii

A Bath to Remember

The Golden Horn
The Golden Horn

When you walk into a new culture a traveler wants to dive right in and experience the culture first hand, experience the place as the locals do. Travelers enjoy the idea of jumping feet first into new experiences. Now when I go to a new country with cultural practices that I am unfamiliar with I tend to like jump in feet first as well and just see what happens. I do this more with bizarre cuisine more than anything and I am always trying the local cuisine. Ashley can pledge that I will try anything no matter how weird it is to me. I tend to follow Anthony Bourdain’s lead when it comes to trying new stuff in culture of food. I travel for food, so when Ashley and I decide to go somewhere I look up the traditional cuisine of the culture. When Ashley suggested that we should go to Istanbul, I could not wait to eat great Turkish food and just eat everything I could get my hands on, which (don’t get me wrong) is exactly what I did. I did not expect though to agree to getting pummeled and boiled like meat in a Turkish bath or a Hammam and further more, enjoy every second of it.

Exploring Sultanahmet
Exploring Sultanahmet

Ashley and I traveled to Romania about four months before we headed to Istanbul and there we made friends with a couple who were also studying in Rome. We became quick friends and decided the next school break to take a trip to Istanbul together. Our trip to Istanbul with them was fantastic but one of the best decisions we made was the idea to go and get pampered with a traditional Turkish bath.

The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque

We really did not know what we were getting into. I think we were all expecting something a little different. Ashley just wanted her back pain to disappear for just a couple of days and I was looking for some kind of meditation; something that clears the mind and rids the body of toxins. I got something like that but I had know idea that it would be in a torture chamber.

 

Too Cool for School (an example of toxins...)
Too Cool for School (an example of toxins…)
Can't Keep a Straight Face
Can’t Keep a Straight Face

When we got to the bath we were immediately separated off into different chambers, the men on one side and the women on the other. We were given a dressing room to take off and store our cloths and towels to wrap ourselves in. Now this bath house had a way to lure you into relaxation at first, it put you in a trance like everything was fine. You are led to a steam room and are allowed to hang out in the room as long as you want. So as my friend and I sat in the steam room and sweated every ounce of water out of our bodies, I was wondering what was in store for me. One important thing to know about me is that heat and me are not friends. If you have ever lived with me you know there are times where I overheat and I am found laying on floor trying to cool off. So I am never able to stay in a steam room for too long just because the heat tends to get to me. I love steam rooms however, and I am always willing to hang out in them because I love the feeling of going outside and embracing the cool air. So after about fifteen minutes of cooking it was time to head out to the next part.

The Haram at Topkapi Palace, not quite the bath house but they still washed their feet here
The Haram at Topkapi Palace, not quite the bath house but they still washed their feet here

Now I do not speak Turkish. Nobody in the complex spoke english. So it was a lot of pointing and and hand gestures to figure out what to do next. So I stood around in the giant room that had an oddly large marble slab in the middle of it. A very Large Turkish man in a bath towel came up to me and directed me to an area where you sit down on the floor under a water spigot. He then left me for a bit, and I thought I recognized the man but I realized that I do not know anybody in Turkey. He came back with a metal bowl. He positioned me next the water spigot and turned on the water. Boiling water came rushing out next to me and as it splashed on the marble floor; I could feel the spray of the water searing my skin. He then proceeded to fill up the metal bowl with the boiling hot water. If I put a live lobster under that spigot you could boil it to a nice beautiful red in seconds. This water was hot. Once the bowl was filled he proceeded to pour it over my head. My skin screamed as the water ran down my body. He then repeated the filing of the bowl multiple times as he continued to pour water over me. Then, as a quick wake up call he started to throw the water into my face and over the front of my body. Thankfully enough, you get use to water after being doused with it a couple of times.

Once my body was nicely seared he took me over to the marble slab that I saw earlier. Now this is all happening in a public room. so there were already other men laying on the marble as well. The very large man had me lay face first on the marble and began to give me the deepest full body massage I have had. There were times that I thought he was gonna break me as he massaged me. He started to twist my body in ways I did not believe it could go, cracking my back, my shoulders, my knees as well as stretching me out. After throwing some more boiling water on my back he sat me up and then moved behind me. He put me in some kind of head hold and then with a quick twist one way and the other way he cracked my neck twice. Just so you can get a picture of how he cracked me neck, think of an action movie when a person comes up and breaks someone’s neck. It was exactly like that. He did it so quickly though I did not have time to protest and afterwards my neck felt great. After a few more stretches of my body he laid me on my back. He then took off my towel leaving me stark naked on this very public marble slab. It actually did not bother me but it was just surprising because he removed the towel without warning. He then folded the towel in small square and laid it over my privates. Next he took a very large sponge that he slid his hand into and dunked it into soapy hot water and began to scrub. I think he took off a layer of skin. He really was energetic in his scrubbing. He scrubbed everywhere and I mean everywhere. He then took more hot water and poured it on my body to rinse the soap off. He then flipped me on my back and repeated the scrubbing. After another rinse off with water he sat me up and sent me back into the steam room. I sat in the steam room for another 15 minutes and then stepped out. The large man then pointed me in the direction of the next room.

After being cleaned raw my body felt like jelly. It was so loose that it was awkward to walk. The next part though was the cool down and probably the most amazing part. I walked through a small door and the room opened up into a rock cave that had a clear pool in the middle. The rock formations around me were amazing. I stepped down into the cool water and my whole body just went limp as I slipped into the cold water. After being boiled liked a lobster and steamed like a clam the cold water felt great. I completely submerged myself in the water and then floated on my back looking up at the cave. I swam a little to get my muscles active again and then just hung out there for about 30 minutes letting my body rest and cool down.

View of Taksim from the Ferry
View of Taksim from the Ferry, not quite the water I jumped into but I didn’t have a camera then.

After I was done cooling down I was escorted out by my guy and he dried me off and then sent to me back to my locker. I got dressed and sat at a table in the lobby and drank some apple tea while I waited for the girls to finish. I have never felt so relaxed and loose in my entire life and it was amazing.

Apple Tea, the best beverage in Istanbul
Apple Tea, the best beverage in Istanbul

Now I recommend one of these baths to everybody. It is very peaceful and relaxing. There is a little pain involved but completely worth it. Now this may not be for some of you if you are not comfortable being exposed in front of other men or being scrubbed down by a man. The baths are split into female and male areas however, and keep in mind that the men who are scrubbing you down are professionals and there should be nothing to be awkward about. I understand that this is not for everybody but I strongly push for you to keep an open mind to it. It is great part of the culture and it is very rewarding. They truly beat you into a new man. So go out and push your comfort zones aside and explore because that is a Bath I will never forget!

Check our related posts and learn more about Istanbul:

Hagia Sofia and the Flag A Glimpse of Istanbul
Hagia Sofia and the Flag
A Glimpse of Istanbul
Never Ending Columns at My Favorite Underground Site
Never Ending Columns at My Favorite Underground Site

 

 

Primo Maggio

So I don’t know if many of you know this but tomorrow is the first of May and that means it is International Worker’s Day and if you are in Rome that means you have a pretty awesome party to attend!  In honor of International Worker’s Day every year Rome throws a huge concert on the “lawn” of San Giovanni in Laterano (the most important Catholic Church in the whole world).  This concert is so huge that major Italian artists come and perform and they close off the streets for BLOCKS!  They have food and souvenir vendors set up all over and its basically a giant party.  I would highly recommend going.  I actually lived just on the other side of San Giovanni when I studied abroad and could see the entire festival, it was pretty amazing.  So I would definitely go and check it out if you are in Rome tomorrow, its a national holiday so everything will be closed so you might as well check it out.  Also they have a website that has the lineup as well, it is in Italian but it is pretty easy to figure out who is performing.  I did not know a single performer the year I went and it was still a ton of fun.   http://www.primomaggio.com/

The Stage and San Giovanni in Laterano
The Stage and San Giovanni in Laterano
Crowd at Primo Maggio
Crowd at Primo Maggio
Trying to Get a Good View
Trying to Get a Good View

 

As you can see it is a giant party and definitely an experience you won’t forget, so even if you can’t make it this year try to go at least once if you find yourself in Italy in May.

 

 

Las Fallas

    One of the great things about traveling around Europe is that no matter what time of year it is there always seem to be some big festival going on, especially when you are traveling around Southern Europe. One of the reason that Southern Europe has a copious amount of celebrations is that the majority of the countries are Catholic and if you know anything about the Catholics it’s that we love to celebrate. What is so great about these religious festivals you may ask? Well like any good Catholic we like to celebrate with drinking and eating. Every Spring my favorite festival goes on in Valencia, the third largest city of Spain. Valencia is the host of Las Fallas, one of the greatest springtime festivals in my opinion. I will admit though, that I am not a big supporter of going to cities when large festivals are going on. The reason is that I hate being bogged down by a city full of tourists. The prices go up, the crowds can tend to over populate the locals, and I lose the feeling that I am in a different country and instead am in some giant adult theme park. I had to eat my words though when I went to Valencia for the Las Fallas festival.

Las Fallas commonly referred to as the fire festival  is a celebration in the honor of St. Joseph, who is the patron Saint of craftsmen or carpenters. Las Fallas does not translate to fire festival but actually refers to the large wooden monuments that are constructed throughout the year for the festival. Now I know what you are thinking why would people then refer to it the fire festival. Well I have your answer! After these massive 20 foot plus monuments are constructed they are then lit on fire at the end of the festival and you get to watch the city go up in flames. Do I have your attention now? What could be better than watching fire engulf gigantic wooden masterpieces as you drink beer and sangria.

The Statues of Las Fallas
The Statues of Las Fallas
The Aztecs at Las Fallas
The Aztecs at Las Fallas

IMG_2007

I got off the Stoke Travel bus with Ashley, her friend from college and the many other people who were on the trip with us. (As a side note if you can go on the trip with a bunch of Aussie’s I would highly recommend it.)  We had been hanging out at the beach, eating and drinking for the last few days and now it was time for the main event, the final day of the festival. We could not have asked for better weather as we drove into the city. The first thing we did was to enjoy little tapas and and some beer before we started to explore the festivities. As we sat and ate we did a bit of people watching. The streets were packed with young and old Spaniards already a few beers deep. Music was playing all along the streets and everybody was in the spirit to celebrate.

IMG_1980

Counting Sheep
Counting Sheep

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  After lunch we decided to take a look around at the large wooden monuments scattered across the city. They seemed to be on every corner of the street looming over you as you walked by. The craftsmanship was amazing and I could not believe that after all this hard work they were just going to light them up and watch them burn. After seeing all the statues that we could, we decided to choose a favorite so we could camp out with a buckets of beer and wait for the festivities to begin. Before we settled down however, I had to dive into another bag of freshly made Churros. I think I spent more of my travel budget on Churros than anything else on that trip. They have vendors all around selling bags of these amazing treats. After I grabbed myself a bag we found a spot along the sidewalk to settle down. Then Ashley and her friend went off to buy of a couple of buckets of beer and a few sandwiches from a local deli shop.

Jamon
Jamon
Buckets o' Beer
Buckets o’ Beer

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Around 10:30 pm the show started, it all began with a few fireworks off in the distance, slowly building up and then we saw large flames off in the distance, then more fireworks started going off down the street going from one sculpture to the next. We saw the fireworks begin at the end of our street and then head towards us and hit the statue with an explosion and then it was engulfed in flames.

Fireworks at Las Fallas
Fireworks at Las Fallas
Lighting up in Flames
Lighting up in Flames

It was amazing, everybody in our area started dancing and chanting and passing around beers and sangria watching a beautiful work of art burn. I know it sounds cheesy but there was something romantic watching the statue burn. I looked around and saw the glows of fire all around the city.

Flames
Flames
Up in Flames
Up in Flames

It was a beautiful sight to see people from all around the world of all different ages celebrating together.The statues that burned around the city brought everybody together and for a moment made all of us as equals. I just stood there with a beer in my hand watching it burn and I felt as if I was in a dream. I snapped out of it and began to dance around and shout and cheer. As the flames of our statue burned down a bit we started to walk around and all the beautiful statues were nothing more than smouldering ash or bonfires for people to sit around and drink. The festival reminded me of my Catholic upbringing and this kept coming to mind as I watched the flames die out. “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” I was glad I had to eat my words and came to celebrate Las Fallas.

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We found out about this festival through a company called Stoke Travel. We booked our trip through them at there site http://stoketravel.com/. They are a great group of people who know how to have fun. (Just so you know I am not getting paid for promoting them. I just believe that they offer a great product that I feel other people will enjoy.) Remember though it’s run by a bunch of Aussie’s out of Barcelona, they like to party. They also have many other trips around the world that are worth checking out like Andorra which Ashley wrote about, check her article out!  Also even if you can’t make it to Las Fallas but are headed to Valencia be sure to check out the Museo Fallero where they have some of the beautiful statues because every year they vote and save the best from the fire, so it will give you a taste of how beautiful these pieces are.