Bear festivities in the Pyrenees


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Inscribed in 2022 (17.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© François Boutonnet Kalimago Films, 2020

The Bear festivities take place every winter in five villages in the Pyrenees mountain range located in Andorra and France. During the event, young men dress up as bears and run through the streets trying to catch participants. The festivities are punctuated by dances, speeches in Catalan and music. The entire local population takes part, hunting the bears and welcoming the spectators. Although the style varies from one village to the next, the scenario remains the same and symbolizes the end of winter, spring rebirth (with the bear waking up from hibernation) and the relationship between humans and nature. After a decline in popularity in the 1960s, the festivities have regained popularity over the last thirty years. People of all ages and backgrounds participate to different degrees, by helping with the organization, playing roles, singing or taking part in the chases. The Bear festivities are passed on through associations and schools, and within circles of family and friends. Children are also in the habit of spontaneously ‘playing Bear’. Uniting thousands of people from the Catalan region, the centuries-old event constitutes an opportunity for the population of the five Pyrenean villages to celebrate their common heritage and assert their membership of the community.