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Frequently Asked Questions about Saint Fermin

If there is one Spanish Fiesta that is famous worldwide is Saint Fermin: every year on July 7th thousands of tourists, both Spanish and international, gather in this city to live the experience of running with the bulls and having fun until the next morning. But many of the visitors -both the Spanish and the foreigners- return to their homes missing some things. Well… we don’t mean that you should document yourself like a bookworm in order to have fun during this festivity, but we are going to answer some of the questions that every visitor has once asked.

Who was Saint Fermin? Fermin, that would later become a saint, was the son of Roman aristocrats that lived in Pamplona (at the times the city was called “Pompelon”) that converted to Christianity after the preaching of Saint Saturnine, in the III century. This saint was struck by the young Fermin, and took him as a disciple. Already a preacher himself, he would travel the Netherlands and the Gaul. It was in Amiens where he received martyrdom: he was beheaded. Curiously, his remains are in the French city, excepting his head, which was taken to Pamplona in 1186. The Catholic church canonized him and set his day to the 7th of July.

Running of the bulls

Why are the bulls released? The running of the bulls has its origin in the medieval entries, which consisted in taking the fighting bulls that would fight the next day from the fields to Pamplona’s main square. The night before the bullfight the shepherds and some locals went through the city’s streets to guide the herd up to the city’s corrals. With time, this custom became more festive until, in the XIX century, received the name of “running of the bulls”. As a funny fact, we’ll say that in the first years it was forbidden to run in front of the bulls, a rule that was defied by the local butchers. Due to the number of people that emulated the disobedient, a more modern rule was established in 1867, which allowed running in front of the beasts taking the necessary precautions.

Why to the runners wear white clothes and a red bandana around their neck? There a re many theories on this: some say that it is inspired by the traditional costumes of the basque-french that the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt had described as “white felt pants, white stockings, white vest, a red wide belt and a red jacket on top”; for other, though, the origin is in the statutes of the association La Veleta of Pamplona, which in 1931 decided that the uniform of their members would be white, because it was flamboyant and simple at the same time (there’s nothing cheapest and easiest to find than a white cloth); to this uniform a red coloured element would be added to stand out from the rest even more… and what could be better than a red bandana around their neck, that wouldn’t fall while running in front of the bulls?

Why is this party so famous? The “guilty part” of the diffusion of Sanfermines around the world (and especially in the English-speaking countries) was the famous North American writer, journalist and adventurer Ernest Hemingway. He arrived to Pamplona for the first time in July 1923, and he was captivated by the charm of a festivity that celebrated life through risk. In 1926 he would publish his novel “The sun also rises” (translated as “Fiesta” in Spanish), that tells the story of a group of travellers that venture from Paris to Pamplona. From that moment on the name of the writer would be permanently linked to the city of Pamplona, and to this celebration. In 1957 the novel turned into film, bringing even more fame to the running of the bulls.

The sun also rises

We would gladly answer more questions, but we are going to stop now, for we are getting ready to go to Pamplona. We can only tell you that the Fiesta is about to begin… and we can only ask of you that you are careful with the bulls, please…

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