[PHOTOS] Young people parade as bears in Romania

[PHOTOS] Young people parade as bears in Romania< /p> UPDATE DAY

Cosmin, 17, is sweating under 40 kg of fur, but he wouldn't miss the bear festival for anything in the world, an ancestral parade that has become touristic and popular with young Romanians in search of traditions.

“The skin I wear was my grandfather's,” proudly says this 17-year-old student who did not wish to give his last name, shaking the animal's head to the rhythm of drums, flutes and whistles.  

In Comanesti, a city in northeastern Romania, as in other localities in this Eastern European country, there is a groan every year between Christmas and New Year's Day in invading the streets to chase away evil spirits.

Several troops hard-selected by the municipality set off, offering a noisy and colorful spectacle to visitors.

Behind the signs listing the names of the villages of origin of the participants, the most expressive of which receive prizes, the faces are those of young people, sometimes even children: they are between 8 and 30 years old, rarely older.&nbsp ; 

Precious furs include the plantigrade's paws, claws, and menacing maw.

'Identity Quest'

In Romania, a country that is home to more than half of the European population of brown bears, these animals now protected but threatened by deforestation symbolize strength and courage.  

This tradition with pre-Christian roots, particularly long-lived in this region which honors them, is prepared in the fall and becomes over the years an ever more important tourist godsend.    

“These parades have experienced a renaissance since 2007 and the entry into the EU”, according to anthropologist Valer Simion Cosma. 

In a country of 19 million inhabitants in the grip of an exodus of its population, “the youth seized it as a quest for identity” whereas, until then, “its cultural interest was directed towards the outside and “folklore considered outdated and reserved for previous generations,” he observes.

Nearly six million Romanians live abroad and when they return for the holidays, they want to perpetuate local customs as a family, deciphers the researcher. 

This movement has been accompanied by the return of an industry producing traditional costumes and by television programs, which attracts tourists by the thousands. 

They throng to eat “mici”, small traditional sausages, but also kebabs. And amidst a troop of young people still dressed as bears, a banner promotes Shiba Inu, a canine-themed cryptocurrency. 

“The value of folklore no longer resides in the meaning attributed in the past, but in its role as a spectacle and in its economic spin-offs, ”concludes Mr. Cosma.