Romanians perform bear dance ahead of New Year

Held on Wednesday (December 29) in the town of Comanesti, some 320 km north-east from Bucharest, the tradition is believed to help to remove the bad spirit of the old year and welcome the new year.

According to the locals, the tradition dates back to the Middle Ages. Until the mid-twentieth century, Roma roamed the villages with real bears kept in chains.

Since then, a simple ritual evolved into a large-scale performance without real bears, but performers wearing bear-masked costumes.

Typically staged in villages, the colorful procession of disguised people goes from house to house.

The performers are organized in groups by their age: the small bear group with children, the medium bear group with adolescents, and the big bear group, in which only men between 18-30 years old are allowed.

Locals worry the tradition may go extinct as less and less people cherish it.

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