San Fermín – It’s more than just Bulls!!

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One of the most famous events in Spain’s festive Calendar is without doubt the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, celebrated for San Fermín, But these celebrations actually last for 9 entire days and offer much much much more!!!

San Fermín is one of the patron Saints of Navarra, and the locals take this event very seriously!

Let’s start with el ‘Chupinazo’ – at the very start of the festivities and officially marking the start of a week of craziness!! On July 6th around 12-13 thousand people, locals and tourists alike, crowd in to the town hall square – If you intend on taking part, please wear comfortable shoes (NOT SANDALS) and clothing you don’t mind getting a little messy, and if you really want to blend in then you should bring your red ‘pañuelo’ (handkerchief). A rocket is fired in to the sky and the celebrations begin. The handkerchiefs are held in the air – an impressive sea of red – whilst the mayor opens the event – and then comes the messy bit – a downpour of mustard, wine, sangria, champagne, flour and saffron.  – The handkerchiefs are later said to be tied to the fence in the San Lorenzo church as a mark of respect to San Fermín.

Lots of singing, dancing, and merriment follows with a performance of the traditional song ‘Biribilketa de Gainza’.

Now it’s time to change and put on your clean white clothes and give the pañuelo a wash. – There are many processions during the week, from the San Lorenzo church to the cathedral and back. The processions themselves are definitely worth seeing and include musicians, gigantes (large papier-mâché people carried on the shoulder) and traditional dances – a chance to catch your breath.

The main event – for some – is of course the running of the bulls, ‘el encierro’ which is said to be when the Toros are moved from the holding pens to the plaza del toros.  This is certainly not for the faint-hearted and only those who are really prepared should take part. The 6 impressive bulls are released and run along the same route each year to eventually finish at the Plaza del Toros. If you trip and fall – stay on the ground and cover your head! – probably the best piece of advice!! Many people rent out the balconies that line the route for the best view. It is certainly a sight to see that will be sure to get the adrenaline pumping!!

There is also plenty going on for kids, with parades full of many weird and wonderful characters – the famous giants, the big heads ‘cabezuelos’ and who could forget the ‘Kilikis and Zaldikos’ – creatures that chase the children with foam sticks! Traditionally, babies chupetes ‘dummies’ are given to the gigantes for safe-keeping and are later made in to jewellery for the following year. There is even a special event at the end of the celebrations for the children to say goodbye to their favourite characters – a sad day for all.

And then it’s all over…. And it is genuinely a sad time for many of the locals – on the last day the major officially closes the celebrations at 12 midnight and bids farewell to the fiestas……Well till next year!!