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La Fiesta de San Fermín :: Pamplona, Spain

August 12, 2009 by  
Category: Festivals

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La Fiesta de San Fermín(The Festival of Saint Fermin), held every year from July 6-14, began in 1591 when the San Fermin festival, the town fair of Pamplona, Spain and a bull fighting celebration were combined into one large festival.  The bishop, Saint Fermin, traveled across the lands converting people to Christianity.  Sadly, his views were not shared by all and he met his martyrdom in Amiens, France where he was beheaded.  Pamplona locals have since honored him with his own festival.  Festival go-ers dress traditional white, with a red bandanna and red sash in memory of the blood shed by the Saint .

The festival owes a lot of its worldwide fame to the description given by Ernest Hemingway in his book The Sun Also Rises.  Hemingway greatly enjoyed his first visit in 1923 and came back many times until 1959, a large amount of city locations are famous thanks to his visits, such as the Iruña cafe.

Perhaps the most famous part of the 9 day celebration is the running of the bulls.  The first bull running is done on July 7th, and then again each of the following mornings at 8am through the end of the festival.  The main requirements to run with the bulls are: * must be 18+, *at the location before 7:30, *not under the influence of alcohol, & do not run in the opposite direction of the running bulls.

The event begins with the runners singing a prayer to the statue of Saint Fermin 3 times asking for his protection.  The traditionally dressed runners arm themselves with a rolled up newspaper to draw the bulls attention from them if needed.  Rockets are set of to alert the runners of what is occurring.  The first rocket signals the corral gate has been opened.  The 2nd rocket signals that all 6 bulls and 6 steers have exited the corral.  The 3rd and 4th rockets signal the respective herds entering the bullring, marking the end of the event.  The bull run averages around four minutes in duration.  The running of the bulls is quite dangerous, every years around 200-300 people are injured during the run, and 15 people have been killed since 1910.

At midnight July 14th, the people of Pamplona meet in the Plaza Consistorial to sing the traditional Pobre de Mi (Poor Me), giving the festival a candlelit conclusion.

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