Sanfermín ∼ Sanfermines (ES) ∼ Los Sanfermines (ES) ∼ Fiestas de San Fermín (ES)
The famous bull-running of Pamplona
The Festival of San Fermin is a 9-day long celebration that takes place annually in Pamplona, the capital city of the autonomous region of Navarra located in the northern part of Spain. The festivities are observed between the 6th and the 14th of July and they are dedicated to San Fermin, the first bishop of Pamplona and legendary holy martyr of the Catholic Church who is traditionally venerated as the patron saint of Pamplona and co-patron saint of Navarra.
From a "medieval summer cattle fair" to a "worldwide known fiesta"
The festival has its roots in the medieval summer cattle fairs followed by bull-fighting events as well as in the San Fermin honoring ceremonies which were held on the 10th of October. In 1591, the religious celebrations dedicated to the saint patron of Pamplona were transferred to the 7th of July in an effort to avoid the bad autumn weather and from that time the San Fermin Festival became the major celebration of the city. Through the centuries more rites and secular observations were added to the event that turned into an extended “fiesta” of the whole region. The festival started to gain worldwide reputation through the novel “The Sun Also rises” written in 1926 by Ernest Hemingway who has first visited Pamplona in 1923.
What are the customs & rituals or San Fermín?
A series of customs and rituals followed during the festivity built up a participatory notion and offer a spectacular aspect to the event. The celebrations start on the 6th of July at noon with “el Chupinazo” the rocket-launching from the balcony of the Town Hall. The San Fermin procession takes place on the morning of the 7th of July when the clergy, political authorities, traditional dancers and bands accompany the statue of San Fermin through the city streets. The parade is followed by numerous large puppet figures called “Giants and the Big Heads” (Gigantes, Cabezudos), a custom incorporated in the 19th century. The famous “Running of the Bulls” (El Encierro) occurs daily between the 7th and 14th of July at 8 am when six bulls and another six steer cattle are rushing through the center of the old town towards the city bullring. Hundreds of courageous runners (mozos) are covering the distance of 875 meters among the bulls leading them to the bullring where they stay until the evening bullfight. The bull-running lasts normally for 3 minutes while the crowd, the speed, and the slippery narrow streets increase the levels of adrenaline as well as the risk of an accident. After nine days of celebrations, the festival ends on mourning atmosphere as crowds holding lit candles gather at Plaza Consistorial chanting the sad notes of “Pobre de Mi” (Poor Me) expressing their feeling for the ending feast.
Pamplona: The capital of Navarre
Visiting Pamplona during the period of the San Fermin Festival gives the unique opportunity to explore the distinctive folklore aspects and the tradition of the Basque region. Among others, this fact attracts over a million visitors from Spain and abroad transforming the small city of 200.000 inhabitants to a major destination.