How Romania’s Dancing Bears Festival Came to Light

Bear Dancing Festival
A bear pack performs in the city of Moinești on December 27 - Credit: Euronews Culture

Every country across the globe has a unique festival commemorated each year during the Christmas or winter holidays. One such occasion is the “Bear Dancing Festival” which is peculiar to Romania and indulged in specifically by the people of Comanesti, a small industrial town in the northeast region of the country.

The “Bear Dancing Festival” in the Moldavia region of Romania, according to Euronews Culture pre-dates Christianity. The millennia-old tradition was born when locals believed that wild animals were their lifeguards. Subsequently, town folks dressed in bearskins and knocked on doors to bring good fortunes to the town.

The Dancing Bears Festival annually sees the coming together of people from all walks of life, near and far to witness a performance by individuals of all ages clad in bearskins. These “bears” intentionally groan and growl at spectators.

The festival usually commences in the days before Christmas and climaxes at Comanesti with spellbinding performances from different packs of dancing bears on December 30.

The packs of dancing bears have nurtured and trained several town folks to participate in the festival over the years and Sipoteni Bear Pack, one of the prominent dancing groups, is no exception.

Speaking to the media, the founder of Sipoteni Bear Pack, Costel Dascalu shared that his “Children, Amalia and David, are already in the pack.”

Costel’s bear pack consists of 120 members with dancers who began at 3 years old.

“I feel liberated, The bear frees our souls,” said one participant, Maria, who joined the Sipoteni Bear Pack as a 5-year-old and is now 22. “I also connect to my departed father who introduced me to the tradition 17 years ago.”

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