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The Bear Dance Festival, Comănești

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The Bear Dance Festival: A Unique Tradition in Comănești

Comănești, a charming village located in the Bucovina and Moldova regions of Romania, is known for its rich traditions and ancient customs. One of the most fascinating events that takes place here is the Bear Dance Festival, also known as Festivalul de Datini și Obiceiuri Strămoșești.

A Celebration of Ancestral Customs

The Bear Dance Festival is held annually on the 30th of December, just before the New Year. This festival has gained popularity not only in Comănești but also in neighboring towns and villages, attracting participants from miles around. It is renowned for its unique bear dancers, who play a significant role in the procession.

The Sacred Bear

In ancient Romania, the bear was considered a sacred animal. The tradition of dancing bears is believed to have originated centuries ago among the Roma people. They would visit villages with real bears on leashes, dancing and chasing away bad spirits from the outgoing year. However, during the communist rule, bear dancing was banned, and it was officially made illegal in 1998.

The Revival of Tradition

With Romania's entry into the European Union in 2007, the last of the dancing bears were bought from their owners and retired to a bear reserve in the Rila mountains. However, the tradition of bear dancing lives on in the form of the Bear Dance Festival in Comănești.

The Procession

During the festival, different groups dressed in bear costumes, often made from real animal furs, parade through the streets of Comănești. The bear dancers are predominantly men and boys, although girls also participate. Accompanied by musicians playing drums and panpipes, the procession makes its way to a stage where a ritual scene is enacted.

A Symbolic Ritual

At the stage, a simple ritual scene unfolds. The bear collapses, symbolizing the presence of a demon inside him. The "Gypsy" character then comes forward with a knife and bleeds the bear, releasing the demon and reviving the bear. This ritual represents the concept of rebirth and renewal for the upcoming year.

Spreading Good Luck

In some versions of the tradition, the bear, the Gypsy, and the drummers also visit houses in the village, singing and dancing to ward off evil and bring good luck to the inhabitants. This adds an interactive and community-oriented aspect to the festival.

Capturing the Magic

The Bear Dance Festival is not only a captivating event for locals and visitors but also a photographer's dream. The vibrant costumes, the energy of the dancers, and the unique cultural significance make for stunning photographic opportunities.

When to Visit

If you're planning to experience the Bear Dance Festival in Comănești, make sure to mark your calendar for the 30th of December. This is the day when the village comes alive with the rhythmic beats of drums and the enchanting sight of bear dancers.

Exploring Comănești

While in Comănești, take the opportunity to explore the village and its surroundings. Immerse yourself in the local culture, visit traditional Romanian houses, and indulge in the delicious regional cuisine. The picturesque landscapes of the Bucovina and Moldova regions offer ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and nature walks.


The Bear Dance Festival in Comănești is a unique and captivating celebration of ancestral customs. This age-old tradition, with its bear dancers and symbolic rituals, brings the village to life and spreads good luck for the upcoming year. If you're looking for an unforgettable cultural experience, make sure to visit Comănești and witness the magic of the Bear Dance Festival.

Updated on 27 May 2024

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