The Fiesta de San Fermín honors Pamplona's patron saint. Parades, dancing, music, fireworks, bullfights and drumming take over the streets and the city doesn't return to its former sober self for some eight or nine days.
An official fires a rocket—the Chupinazo—from the City Hall's second floor central balcony on July 6 at noon to declare the beginning of the festivities. Thousands of men tie on their symbolic red bandanas and carnival chaos ensues.
The next morning at 10 a.m. an effigy of San Fermín is paraded through the streets to the accompaniment of wild Spanish songs called jotas. Throngs of immaculately white-clad men follow the procession, rejoicing to the music of the penas, txistu players, pipers, buglers, drummers, mace bearers and escorts. San Fermín is the patron saint of wineskin makers and wine merchants, which accounts for the prevalence of the Spanish porrón (wine skin) and—towards the end of the fiesta—red wine-stained white overalls.
Later in the day a mass in honor of the saint is followed by the moméntico, where Comparsas (carnival groups) of giants, cabezudos (big-headed giants), kilikis and kaldikos (who are especially charged with chasing children) take to the streets in a rhythmic shuffle.
The festivities continue throughout the week, with numerous highlights. The best-known are the morning bull runs, famously brought to international attention by Ernest Hemingway, where locals and visitors risk their lives to outpace galloping bulls as they hurtle along the town's streets towards the bullring.