The festival of San Fermin is one of the most famous annual celebrations in Spain. The fiesta is more commonly known in the UK as the running of the bulls – if you’re taking a Spanish language course you may already know the word for this is encierro – and it takes place in Pamplona in the Navarre region every July in honour of the local patron saint.
Whilst it’s the bull running which takes place daily from 7 to 14 July for which the fiesta is probably best known, there are many other elements to the celebrations besides this such as competitions of traditional Basque sports. The beginning of the festivities is marked at noon on 6 July when crowds gather in the town’s Plaza Ayuntamiento to witness the chupinazo, where firework rockets signal the start of the 9-day party. The following day sees the traditional procession in which a 15th-century statue of the saint is carried through the streets of the old town, accompanied by thousands of people.
Another spectacular part of the fiesta is the daily gigantes y cabezudos (giants and big heads) parade which features giant 4-metre figures representing four pairs of kings and queens of different ethnic origin, each carried by a dancer inside a wooden structure. The giants dance along accompanied by the ‘big heads’ – large caricature-like masks – as well as 6 kilikis and 6 zaldikos (figures representing horses and their riders), who chase children with their foam truncheons.
The fiesta reaches its conclusion in the main plaza at midnight on 14 July where crowds gather by candlelight to sing the mournful Pobre de Mi (Poor Me) and the mayor closes the festivities. San Fermin truly has some spectacular sights for anyone wanting to soak up the experience of a Spanish fiesta.