Romania’s Dancing Bears
Posted: March 1, 2023
Bears dance down the streets in Romania. It’s not quite a parade of teddy bears. These “bears” are actually people dressed in skins.
The dancing bears festival takes place every December. Visitors come from as far away as Japan. They see rows and rows of jaws and claws. Giant, red pom-poms decorate the furs. They look a little like a marching band.
Some of the bears jokingly growl or pretend to attack onlookers. More festival-goers wear glittering drummers’ costumes or old military outfits. Visitors join the fun.
Locals say that the custom dates back thousands of years. People then believed that wild animals guarded them from bad luck or danger. The nomadic Romani people brought real dancing bears on leashes to villages. They thought the bears brought promise of “good fortune” and a happy new year. Later, people donned bear fur themselves. In modern times, the custom lives on as a festival. It draws crowds of tourists.
Christians know that only God protects us from evil—not bears. Superstitions and luck have no power. Only God is in charge of what happens. Proverbs 16:33 reminds us, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
Symbols of brown bears show up all over in Romania’s traditions and culture. The real bears often can be spotted by mountain roads and in forests. Romania is home to about half of all of Europe’s brown bears.
Wearing a full-sized brown bear fur isn’t easy. With both the head and claws, the fur could weigh up to 110 pounds. And costumes can cost more than $2,000! But even children don the bear attire.
Why? Learning about other cultures helps us understand how other people live, act, and see the world. That knowledge can help us show compassion and spread the good news.