SAN FERMIN – Festival of Pamplona, Spain

What is San Fermin?

San Fermin is a weeklong celebration that takes place every year in the city of Pamplona, Northern Spain. The festival is held in the honor of Saint Fermín, the co-patron of Navarre. The celebration starts at noon on the 6th of July and goes on till midnight of the 14th of July.  The start of the celebrations is marked by setting off fireworks and the singing of the song –  Pobre de mi. The most famous event of the festival is the running of the bulls which begins at 8 am every day, but there are also other traditions involved.  The festival gained traction on an international level is largely due to the description in Ernest Hemingway’s book ‘The Sun also rises’ as well as the reports that he made as a journalist.

SAN FERMIN festival
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How did the festival SAN FERMIN come into being?

The festival has its origins in two different medieval events. At the beginning of summer, large commercial secular fairs were held where cattle merchants, came into town as well. As a result of this bullfighting came to be a part of the festival.

Religious ceremonies, however, were held on the 10th of October. In 1591, they were transferred to the 7th of July to align with the other festivities. This time was also deemed favorable due to better weather conditions.  The initial occurrences of the festival in medieval times included musicians, tournaments, theatre, bullfighting, dances, and even fireworks. Running with the bulls eventually made an appearance as a part of the tradition and was followed by the Parade of Giants in the mid-19th century.

Daily Events of SAN FERMIN

Running of the bulls

Arguably, the most famous event of the festival, it involves hundreds of people running in front of six bulls and another six steers for a stretch of eight hundred and twenty-five meters. The stretch is a narrow one that ends in Pamplona’s building taking about three minutes to complete.  The bulls are then held until the bullfight in the afternoon.

The event starts with the announcement of the release of the bulls from the corral by the first firecracker. A second cracker then signals that the last bull has left the corral. The third cracker indicates that the bulls have entered the arena and the fourth cracker signifies the end of the run.

Giants and Big Head Parade

Every morning there is a parade held with giant figures. There are eight giant figures, four pairs of kings and queens of four different races and places, each of the height of thirteen feet. The remaining 17 figures are 6 kilikis, 5 big- heads, and 6 zaldikos. Big heads masks are up to 3.3 feet tall. Kilikis and big heads are caricature-like but human-like figures that are carried as helmets.

Traditional sports and bullfighting

The many sports that take place during the festival include stone lifting, woodcutting, and hay bale lifting. Betting is a common practice during these events.

The bullfight takes place every afternoon in which the six bulls from the running with the bulls are killed. A fight with younger bulls and not fully trained bullfighters is performed as the fifth feature while the sixth features bullfighters on horses.

Fireworks

A firework spectacle is held every night at the citadel park at 11 o’clock.

Also read about South Indian Festival Onam

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