The Day Of The Bear

The Day of the Bear, also known as The Bear's Celebration Day, always occurs around Candlemas. According to most popular beliefs, right after the first snow and before the first frost, the bear starts looking for a shelter or a cave to use as such and, once he has found it, curls up inside for the rest of the winter, hibernating or, to put it better, lying there in a sort of numbness, from which he only awakes to feed, meaning to nibble on his paws, as the fat he bears on them is the only food he has got. But, on the Day of the Bear, he wakes up and leaves his den, up to ten hours before noon, and he playfully indulges in fooling around on the layer of white snow in front of his cave. Should this day, say the people of Banat, be a sunny and clear one, when the bear can see his own shadow, then he will go back to his lair and sleep for six more weeks, thus forecasting that there would be six more weeks of winter, as frosty and bitterly cold as the previous ones. Should there, on the other hand, be a cloudy day and the bear not be able to see his own shadow and therefore linger outside, that is a clear sign that winter is drawing to its end, cold days are about to come to their conclusion and good weather about to step in and announce the beginning of spring. On the contrary, Romanians of Valea Jiului, in Transylvania, believe and say that, once the bear has stepped out of his cave in a sunny day he is so happy to see his shadow that he jumps for joy around his winter shelter, which he then deserts, as a sign that winter is losing strength and that the cold is about to break in favour of warm sunny days. Should the day be a cold one, he returns to his den and remains there for six more weeks, as shall the winter last. Finally, Romanians in Bucovina believe that if the bear leaves his lair on the 4th of February, spring is about to begin, however cold the weather may still be. And, should the weather be fine and the bear nevertheless reluctant to abandon his cave, this is a clear sign of a long lasting winter. But others claim that if the bear steps out of the cave, sees the weather is fine and still decides to stay inside and to cover the entrance into his lair, he only does that because he feels that the winter is still strong. Should he, on the contrary, get out in a cold weather, then he is soon to start scouring the forest, sensing that warmer days are near. And there are even more people saying that it is only around Candlemas that the bear is ready to get out of his den and see how the weather is. Should it be cloudy, he gets out and drinks fresh water from the spring; should it be a clear day, he grumpily draws back into his cave, with no hope of summer. Should anyone meet him before he had his first sip of fresh water, that man may find him vulnerable and powerless; but he should be feared and kept away from once he has had his drink. From all the above mentioned beliefs one may conclude that the bear is a weather forecaster and that it is for this reason that Candlemas is sometimes referred to as The Day of the Bear, as it is in this day that he comes out to face the world after his winter sleep. excerpted from Romanian Holidays, an ethnographic study Editura Fundatiei Culturale Romane, 1994 Translated by Ioana Bâldea

by Simion Florea Marian (1847-1907)