Saint Fermin is believed to have been the son of a Roman senator who converted to Christianity and later became a priest. He was martyred in France in AD 303.
The San Fermin festival begins on July 6 with a rocket launch from a balcony of Pamplona’s city hall. The next day there is a procession in which a statue of Saint Fermin is paraded through the streets joined by dancers, musicians, and the “gigantes” and “cabezudos” (giants and big-heads).
The running of the bulls takes place on July 7 and continues each day of the festival, which lasts until July 14. Runners are pursued by six bulls and six steers down a roughly half-mile route that ends at the bullring in Pamplona. Before the run begins, participants pray to Saint Fermin and chant three times asking for his protection.
The run begins when a firecracker is set off to alert the runners that the bulls have been released. Since hundreds of people participate, the firecracker signal is necessary so that people will be prepared to start running. Although approximately 15 people have been killed running from the bulls, about 250 people are injured every year, usually from falls.