Every year from July 6 to July 14, Pamplona becomes a city where the aroma of the word “fiesta” is felt in every square, in every lane. These days, the city celebrates a holiday in honor of the patron saint of Pamplona and Navarra, St. Fermin. By tradition, San Fermin is considered the protector of winemakers and bakers, which is an excuse for the townspeople who these days turn Pamplona into an endless festivity. It all starts with a rocket shot from the balcony of the city hall, announcing the opening of the holiday. With shouts of “Long live San Fermin!”, Hymns, dances and songs, the city plunges into a sea of wild fun that will last 204 hours.
The roots of the San Fermin holiday are lost in history. The first mention of it is found in the chronicles of the XIII century. Until the sixteenth century, the holiday was celebrated in October and coincided with the celebrations of St. Fermin’s Day. Gradually, the holiday lost its exclusively religious character: from the 14th century, fairs and bullfights began to be held simultaneously. In XVI, due to the instability of the autumn weather, Pamplona City Hall asked the bishop to postpone the day of the worship of the Holy on July 7th.
Originally a celebration of local importance, San Fermin reached its maximum popularity in the 20th century, thanks in large part to Ernest Hemingway. Arriving for the first time in Pamplona on July 6, 1923, Hemingway was forever fascinated by the atmosphere of the city and chose it as the scene of his novel “The Sun Rises” (“Fiesta”), which brought the writer worldwide fame. People from all over the world, in turn conquered by the Hemingway images of Pamplona, began to come here during the holidays in order to experience the emotions described by the Nobel Prize winner in literature.
The most striking element of the San Fermin festivity is the running of the bulls through the streets of the city from the corrals of Santo Domingo to the Plaza de Toros, where bullfights take place in the evenings. Desperate courage these days get the opportunity to compete with the bulls in speed and run in front of them through the streets of the old city. These dangerous races begin every day from July 7 to 14 at 8 a.m. with a shot of the first rocket, which gives a signal to open the doors of the Santo Domingo corral. A second shot will be heard when all the bulls leave the corral.
Tourists who decide to take part in this race should bear in mind that local daredevils know by heart the route that runs through narrow, winding streets and never try to withstand more than 50 meters of running in front of the horns of six hundred kilogram giants.
A run of bulls along a route of 850 meters lasts only about 3 minutes. Despite its fleetingness, this spectacle attracts thousands of spectators every year, who, for the pleasure of being witnesses of this action, endure the coolness of the morning and sacrifice sleep and rest after nightly entertainment.
Gradually, such traditional elements of the festival as bullfighting and running of bulls, added parades of masks, fireworks, music festivals that leave no one indifferent to those who were in Pamplona these days. It is only necessary to plunge into this atmosphere and surrender to universal jubilation.
On July 14, at 12 o’clock at night at the Plaza Consistorial, filled with people with burning candles in their hands, the mayor of Pamplona will announce the official closing of the holiday. Fireworks in the neighboring square will drown out the mayor’s words, and the fun will subside only in the morning … so that in a year it will start again.