Romanian Bear Dance

My informant is the daughter of Romanian immigrants. She has spent much of her childhood visiting relatives in Romania, in an area that she describes as “Romanian hick country”.

There is a traditional Romanian dance known simply as the Bear Dance, in which Romanian men dress themselves in real bear skins and dance through the streets of their town. This tradition takes place some time between Christmas and the new year, as a way to ward off evil spirits and welcome in a safe and prosperous new year. Everyone in the town comes out and watches this dance, even though it is the dead of winter and freezing cold. Romanian winters are similar to Russian winters, and these people are not dressed in the heaviest of clothing. My informant speculates that this was most likely a pagan celebration that has over time become “Christianized” as a holiday ritual.

I’m curious as to how these people acquire so many bear skins – I asked my informant and she admitted that she had no idea.