The tradition known as Bear Dance which dates back from pre-Christian times is still alive in the rural communities of the Trotus Valley of Romania’s Western Moldavia region. Each year between Christmas and the New Year, hundreds of locals dressed in bearskins perform dances aiming to chase away the evil spirits. While this tradition is still observed in villages where the procession visits every household, in towns it usually takes the form of a parade on the central square, among which the major one takes place in Comanesti. The procession, which can include between six and 24 bears, would traditionally visit every household of the village, accompanied by up to three singing bear tamers, several characters wearing women’s clothes and drummers. The central act of the Bear Dance is death and resurrection of bears, symbolizing renewal, the end of the year and the beginning of the new one. The death and resurrection of the bear suggest its strong ability to overcome the harsh winter and herald the coming of spring. For Geto–Dacians, ancestors of present-day Romanians, the bear was a sacred animal with healing powers. The life cycle of the bear was responsible for regulating seasons, entering hibernation before winter and waking up in spring. A bear fur costume, regarded as a family trophy, weighs up to 40 kg for the adult size and cost up to two-thousand euros, with prices going up after the introduction of EU regulations controlling bear hunting.


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