At “8.15am until 5pm – very little happens!” says an article in About.com about the 9-day Fiesta de San Fermin. That’s true if you’re one of those tourists who thinks that the fiesta is only about the running of the bulls and the all night libation parties. But a Pamplones would say that’s simply not true. You see, locals observe and enjoy many traditions all day long, both religious and non-religious, during the fiesta in honor of their patron saint, San Fermin. To experience the real spirit of the Sanfermines, we joined the locals in some fiesta traditions they passionately observed.
People of all ages walk the street of Pamplona to head to different fiesta events. For locals, it’s a great family fiesta. We witnessed locals from one month old to 100 years old enjoying variety of festivities.
For the locals, the heart of the fiesta is a religious celebration. After all, the fiesta that dates back from the middle ages is in honor of their patron saint. For them, the highlight of the fiesta is the Procession of San Fermin, the tradition when the image of the saint is paraded through the streets of Pamplona accompanied by pomp and circumstance.
A young Pamplones patiently waiting to see the image of his town’s patron’s saint as well as the procession’s entourage led by a a fun retinue of characters called “The Court of the Giants and the Bigheads.”
The Court of the Giants and the Big Heads are enormous papier-mâché figures that parade daily throughout the city during the fiesta, but on this day their troupe is a big part of the procession entourage.
The Big Heads are the most serious among the figures. Unlike the other members of the court, they don’t dance and kid around. They just walk in dignified fashion in front of the Giants.
Children with one of the “Kalikis,” the figures whose main task is to “frighten” and entertain the children by playfully hitting and chasing them with soft balls attached to a stick.
Here comes the Giants! The Giants are composed of four pairs of kings and queens representing the different parts of the world: Europe, Africa, Asia and America. (I just figured out why Oceania is not represented. The characters were first created in the 1600’s and Oceania was just about to be discovered then).
One the of the giant queens. The giants dance and twirl to music as they parade on the streets.
A little girl checking out one of the giant kings with her father.
The crowds cheered as they caught the precious sight of the image of their patron saint.
This revered image of San Fernin is a wood carving dating back from the 1500’s. Its chest contains the reliquary of the saint.
Children’s Offering to San Fermin
A boy sitting on his father’s shoulder while waiting for the ceremony to start.
A father proud and thrilled to bring his young son to his very first fiesta.
Las Barracas (The Fair)ground)
The locals pay homage to their adopted son, Ernest Hemingway, by dedicating the 4th day of the fiesta for him. The Fiesta became world famous after Hemingway wrote about it in his book “The Sun Also Rises.” A Hemingway look-alike contest was held during the fiesta. The man on the right coveted the honor.
If there’s fiesta, there’s food!
A cook proudly presented a giant pan of Spainish traditional dish – the paella.
The Peñas, or social clubs, set up dining tables on the street filled with inviting food. You can crash if you ask.
Fiesta Dancing and Music
Kids stayed up after the firework display and enjoyed their own mini-fireworks while their older folks enjoy a late night picnic at the park.
A tourist who run with the bulls quipped in an article he wrote for a Travel Channel website that “around midnight, they celebrate your manliness with a huge fireworks display in Pamplona.” Oh boy! The locals welcome visitors to their fiesta but I’m sure they would raise their eyebrows to those tourists who think that it’s all about them just because they ran with the bulls. After all is said and done, the fiesta belongs to Pamploneses and to the patron saint they highly revere.