The San Fermín Festival is more commonly known outside of Spain as ‘The Running of the Bulls’ and is held in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona each summer, from July 6 to July 14. Today San Fermin is celebrated yearly and holds more than 10,000 visitors every July.
San Fermin first began in the 3rd century when the town’s butchers were tasked to transport the bulls from their ranches outside of the city to the bullring. The ‘pastores’ a.k.a bull minders were assigned to make sure that the bulls were safe from the busy surroundings. The young butchers ran in front of the bulls to try and make them run faster. Who knew that this technique would then transform into a competitive event?
Much so that even the locals wanted to join what looked like fun but mostly life threatening. To participate, you must be 18+ years old – then ask the experienced runners where to start the race and how to be safe from the bulls. Don’t be alarmed, you don’t have to participate if running near bulls does not get your blood pumping for the right reasons. An enjoyable alternative would be to rent a balcony over the streets and enjoy the view from above – safe and sound.
On July the 6th, guests are brought in the city at noon in front of the city hall to start the opening ceremony recognized as ‘Txupinazo’. Disclaimer, if you are not comfortable with big crowds and pushy people, Txupinazo may not be for you. For those who want to submerge themselves in Txupinazo, raise your red scarf (the traditional way) in the air to commence the fiesta.
Then everyone waits for a city council member to shout: “People of Pamplona, long live San Fermin!”, the crowd begins cheering until a rocket is set from the balcony. This then signifies that you have to put your red scarf on and start drinking the celebratory drink of choice: champagne!
The traditional attire for San Fermin is to wear white pants, a t-shirt with a red waist sash and a red scarf around your neck. NOTE: You will eventually get wet with water and sangria slashed onto you from the balcony, so don’t get too precious about your hair or clothes. It will get messy, but what’s a festival without letting loose!
To end the day, fireworks rocket through the sky to announce the end of the party. Just when you thought that running near the bulls wasn’t competitive enough, every night, different companies compete in an international firework competition.The sky show lasts for about 30 minutes and indicates that it’s time to go sleep and recharge for the next day.
At 8 am and the Encierro (Running of the bulls) begins! Thousands of runners participate in this 800 meters long route. The bulls charge in from the bottom of the city and run to the bull-fighting ring at the end. Only 12 animals participate in the sprint, 6 of them are bull-fighting bulls and the latter being, oxen trained to lead. Although it lasts for about 5 minutes, the runners run directly in front of the bulls at the end of route and then protect themselves behind the fence shortly after. You must be thinking, who would be daring enough to participate in such a dangerous race. Out of the runners, at least 200 injuries are recorded each year. The key to being safe is to not fall during the run. That can be tricky if you have a pushy crowd behind you. Wear running shoes, speak to the professional runners and don’t abuse the champagne!
When the adrenaline-packed race is brought to an end, the bulls stay in the ring and the bullfighting event begins in the afternoon. Thereafter, the fiesta continues in the town hall and the festival participants chant in union with candle in hand : “Poor me, poor me, for the festival has come to a close.”
Here comes the end of the fiesta!
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