By Ombretta Di Dio
When the txupinazo is tossed in the air and the Mayor makes his announcement from the balcony of the municipal building, the entire city knows the party can start. What I’m referring to is one of the most famous celebrations in the world, that every year attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all over the planet. So crazy and tumultuous that authors like Hemingway felt the urge to tell about it in masterpieces like “Fiesta”. I’m talking about the Sanfermines: Las fiestas de San Firmìn in Pamplona, Spain.
The txupinazo is a rocket that signs the beginning of the celebrations. At noon, on the 6th of July, everybody will start drinking in a general chaos and excitement that only went higher while waiting on the street.
The most famous among the activities that take place in Pamplona during Sanfermines is the “Encierro”, a run of 800 meters with the bulls that starts at the base of Santo Domingo’s slope, where the bulls have spent the night and ends in Plaza De Toros.
This mad run happens every day, from the 7th to the 14th of July at 8 a.m and approximately lasts 3 or 4 minutes, definitely more than enough to pump the adrenaline of whoever decides to join it. If danger is your middle name and you’re over 18 years old, you can guide the bulls with tons of people including expert runners and other tourists. Usually, in fact, more than 2000 people join every run and, theoretically, only those who are drunk are denied access to the path. However, since many are still incredibly hung over from the shenanigans of the night before, tourists get normally hurt or run over by the bulls. If, on the other hand, you don’t feel like risking a horn in your back, you can still observe what’s going on from the sides of the roads, but, in order to have a good view, you might want to arrive before 6 a.m and make sure you’re pressed against the wooden fence that divides the crowd from the runners.
Other activities include the parade of the “Caballeros En Plaza”, with their “corridas” and nightly beautiful fireworks lit by international pyrotechnics coming from Naples, Sicily and Valencia. Music is a fundamental element of this fiesta, marching bands walk throughout the city roads every day during the celebrations, evening concerts are played everywhere in town and, lastly, a big concert is held at the famous Gayarre Theater.
On the 14th of July, at midnight, la fiesta comes to the end and the Mayor thanks the presents for having joined the celebrations, inviting them to be there again the following year. The entire Municipal Square is illuminated by the candles held by people that intone a brief “goodbye song” for Firmìn.
The origin of this party goes back to the middle age, when it was celebrated in November to honor the protector of Pamplona, Sant Sadurnin. In the year 1590 though, people got tired of celebrating in the cold weather and decided to dedicate a big event to another saint, Firmìn, whose day falls in July. Even though it’s for the most part a social event, the religious origins have nowadays not been forgotten and a long procession takes place in Pamplona on the 7th of July in honor of the Saint.
The general atmosphere that you will breathe in Pamplona in the week of San Firmìn can only be compared to the one of events like the Oktoberfest in Munich or the Carnival in Rio, so, if you’re looking for a unique way to spend seven days in Spain, Firmìn is the chance you have to get carried away in a climate of joy, madness and euphoria that you will most likely remember forever.