Each year, residents of the Romanian town of Comanesti celebrate the New Year by throwing on bearskin suits and parading through the streets.
Yup, real bear skins.
It’s known locally as Ursul, and it features troupes of enthusiasts, young and old, wearing full-body bear suits.
This raucous celebration includes loud, pounding drums and piercing pan flutes as the bears make their way through the town.
These troupes visit the town each year between Christmas and New Years to ward off evil spirits and cleanse it for the coming year.
This unique tradition has roots with the local Romani gypsy people, who lived in the hills near the town.
Every year they would put bear cubs on leashes and bring them into town, where the cubs would walk on the backs of the villagers as a way to alleviate back pain.
As the bears got older, they would be brought to town and made to dance.
All of this was done for tips, sips of alcohol, or cubes of animal fat.
Over time and with evolving attitudes towards animal rights, the parade became local Romanians dancing dressed as bears.
Although the tradition has been declining in popularity in recent years as younger people move to larger cities, local cultural groups are doing their best to preserve the bear parade.
What do you think? Do you find this holiday tradition unbearable?
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