The opening event of the festival, the Chupinazo, takes place on July 6th at midday. Before the appointed time, the crowd gathers in the square in front of the town hall and waits for the municipal councilor to launch the rocket that will begin the Sanfermines. Before lighting the rocket, the officiant will say the words that have been a part of this ceremony since 1941: “Pamplona, Pamplonesas, Viva San Fermín! Gora San Fermín!” Then the crowd erupts into a party that does not stop until the evening of the July 14th.
The popular clothes of the festival are all white (which little by little will take on the color of whatever people are drinking) and a red scarf. According to tradition, this scarf should be worn around the neck at all times during the festival, but until the lighting of the rocket, it is common to see them tied to peoples’ wrists or belts. The red color comes from the tradition of wearing the color during the offices to honor those holy martyrs who have died for their beliefs.
The most famous event of San Fermín and, perhaps, the defining image of the festival today, are the running of the bulls (Los Encierros). The tradition takes every morning at 7:00. This tradition goes back to the Middle Ages when the shepherds would enlist the help of young men from Pamplona to drive the cattle for the bull fights to the Plaza de Castillo, the first bullring of the city. This event, called “entrada,” in its beginnings, came to be a part of the festival program as a spectacle and popular activity when, in the mid-19th century, the young men who helped the shepherds started to runin front of the bulls instead of at their sides and behind them.
The event begins at 8 a.m., and it goes for a little more than half a kilometer from the Cuesta de Santo Domingo to the Plaza de Toros. Just before they begin, the participants sing the famous protection song to the saint a few times, which says: “A San Fermín pedimos, por ser nuestro patron, nos guíe en el encierro y nos dé su benedición.” The running of the bulls, which shouldn’t last more than three minutes, ends with the entrance of the bulls (6 bulls and 6 steers) into the Plaza de Toros. Then a dropping of the heifers takes place. After this day, there is a bullfight held every afternoon at 7 that pertains to the Feria Taurina de San Fermín.
The Procesión de San Fermín takes place on July 7th. It is one of the most popular events of this festival. At 10 in the morning, the Corporación Municipal (dressed in regalia and accompanied by musicians, giant puppets, and other commemorative things) marches to the cathedral in search of the Cabildo, then to the Iglesia de San Lorenzo to recover the image of San Fermín. For an hour and a half, the procession fills the main streets of the historic district, making short stops, or “Momenticos,” in which different honors are made to the saint. The most famous “momentico” takes place next to the atrium of the Catedral, at the end of the procession, when the Corporación Municipal dismisses the Cabildo and the giant puppets dance.