Home to Transylvania, Romania is a country ideal for weird wanderers the world over. With a history steeped in the legends of Vlad the Impaler–the undeniably violent inspiration for Dracula–Romania should be on the bucket list for anyone who wants breathtaking sights and an atmospheric vibe.
However, when it comes to holiday festivities, forget Transylvania and opt instead for Comanesti, a small town in the northern part of the country. That’s where you’ll find the major must-see New Year’s event: the annual Bear Ritual.
In Romania, the New Year’s Bear Ritual takes direction from all good traditions: it exists to bring good will and good luck for the people by driving off evil spirits. In the Bear Ritual’s early days, which date back thousands of years to the pagans, people went door-to-door dressed in real bearskin. Today, a group of dancers don lifelike bear costumes–boasting teeth and all–and perform an annual bear dance in the streets. From children to the elderly, people of all ages participate in this New Year’s Eve ritual.
The yearly parade is a truly fearsome sight to behold, and fortunately, with the advent of synthetic fur, not all of the costumes sacrifice a real bear in the process. But whether the festive outfits are cruelty-free or authentic, this Bear Ritual is one-of-a-kind and helps to make Dracula’s native land a little bit weirder for the holiday season.
So if you want a New Year’s memory unlike any other, consider visiting Romania on December 31st. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your bear disguise.
Happy haunting, and happy Bear Ritual!
Photo from Wikimedia Commons (author: bejan ovidiu)