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These ancestral celebrations open the Carnival festivities and mark the end of winter. The Bear Festivals are listed in the inventory of intangible cultural heritage in France.
6 February – Arles-sur-Tech
20 February – Prats-de-Mollo
27 February – St-Laurent-de-Cerdans
Bear Holiday Video
Legend has it that a bear kidnapped a young shepherdess to mate. Tracked down by the hunters, the bear after having valiantly defended itself is captured and the young girl saved. The bear is brought back to the village square where it will be shaved. More humane, the bear then performs various jobs and tasks on behalf of the villagers.
This story has become an initiatory journey, the ritual of passage to adult life from the status of a bear to the status of a civilized human being. Young men dress up as bears and roam the villages to tag young girls of marriageable age.
In order to learn and perpetuate the tradition with the youngest, each Bear festival has its junior bear festival.