“At noon of Sunday, the 6 of July, the fiesta exploded. There is no other way to describe it.”

Thus begins the famous chapter in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises which describes the start of San Fermin. And it still happens in much the same way. On July 6 of every year, at noon, a rocket bursts above the heaving crowds of revelers in front of the beautiful ayuntamiento, or town hall, signaling the beginning of the fiesta. This is referred to as the txupinazo (or chupinazo) which is the word for the rocket itself. At this moment, as Hemingway put it so well, the fiesta explodes.

All morning people get ready, deciding what ritual to partake in. Everyone wears all white, with a red sash called a faja around their waist. It is most probable those whites on the 6 will not stay white, so it is advisable to wear disposable or easy to bleach whites, and always wear close-toed and comfortable shoes. Anything that you bring can potentially get wet.

You can choose to go into the crowded plaza, where sangria flies through the air and the crowd is boisterous. There you will be plastered in among drunk, wet bodies jumping up and down and shoving back and forth in excitement. People sing and shout and bat at balloons and beach balls. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is definitely a unique experience and has an amazing high energy atmosphere. When the rockets burst, the plaza fills with confetti and music and joy. People crowd the balconies of every building around the square, champagne pops, and the air is electrifying.

If that is too much sensory input for you, there are plenty of other options. The optimal spot is scoring a place on a balcony around the square. There you will not miss any of the action but will not have to deal with the shoving and sangria below.

Other people stay indoors completely, watching it on TV. There is still champagne and celebratory hugs, and that is the best way to keep your whites white. Some families throw a party, some people are in bars and cafés, but no matter where you are, there is a feeling of pure joy and anticipation for the days ahead.