The Night of the Ninot in Valencia, Spain - My Family Travels

       Valencia, Spain, thousands of miles away from my home and speaking an entirely different language this past summer, I had the experience of a lifetime.  After a test and application process with the Indiana University Honors Foreign Language Program to study Spanish in Spain, I was selected.  I left everything behind for the summer and had the most spectacular seven weeks of my life.

            Once the plane hit the ground in Spain, English was cut from our vocabularies and we were given the opportunity to grow in a language through entire immersion in the culture. Honestly, even when coming back to the United States, I never felt the desire to speak English, because I fell in love with Spain and its culture.  My host mom, Maria, provided the best cultural experience; “The Night of the Ninot”.  A ninot is a float, which is built on a much smaller scale using different leftover materials that in the end is burned.

            The origin of the ninot dates back to when carpenters would have many leftover scraps at the end of the year.  All the carpenters in a neighborhood placed all the scraps together and burnt them.  Over time, the tradition changed and the materials were used to make political commentaries and satirical expressions of current events.  The children of Maria’s falla group had built a spectacular ninot for children.  Each of the angles represented a different transportation form and the importance it held within their daily lives.

            When talking to the children that had contributed, each wanted to rush to their creation and spoke excitedly about what they made and its significance.  Still not having a lot of exposure to the language, I missed the importance of some of their statements, but their joy and excitement was expressed to me.  Maria never explained to me the significance of the festival, instead I was able to experience it first hand.  Within the hour, suddenly the fallera menor, gave a speech about the pride she had to be associated with the youth and told everyone to stand back.  Being pushed 50 to 100 feet back from the ninot and told to open my mouth so my eardrums wouldn’t burst, I had no idea what was going to happen.

            Suddenly, sparks flew, firecrackers burst and the ninot became engulfed in flames higher than 10 feet tall.  It was the loudest sound, I had ever experienced, and I could do nothing more than stand there in pure amazement.  For the next hour, the ninot remained engulfed in flames, as everyone joined hands and sang traditional Spanish songs.  Although the language barrier affected some of my understanding, there is nothing more spectacular than watching the children bursting with pride at their creation.

The fallas celebrate the ninots of the children in June, but those of the adults are experienced on a much grander scale during March for an entire week.  A fire truck was called, by a neighbor down the street, for the children’s ninot, I can not even begin to imagine about seeing the city of Valencia in flames as 350 ninots, many on a grander scale, all rose in fire on the same night.  “The Night of the Ninot” was one way I experienced the Spanish culture during my IU Honors Program experience.

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