Straw Bear Festival

The Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival is an annual event being held in a small town in Cambridgeshire in east England. It is now a modern event which was brought back to life in 1980, after it was suppressed for over 70 years.

After the Plough Monday, an occasion that marks the return of agricultural workers to the fields after the Christmas break, the straw bear festival begins and goes on through the weekend. It is not exactly clear how long this tradition have been, but back then, it was a custom for one of the farmers in the plough confraternity to dress up in straws and they go about imitatating the dancing bears which were led from town to town in medieval times. Which is why the straw men are called straw bears. The weekend of the event have become a weekend of celebration with concerts, dances and processions including dozens of molly and morris dancers performing across the town.

People dress up in colourful customs to participate in Straw Bear Festival and visitors from across the country come to watch the event which begins properly on friday night with a concert, story-telling sessions and poetry. The local farmer who will be dressed up as a straw bear, will be led around the town by his keepers with a dance, as music plays all the way. This particular procession takes place on the saturday, which is the day the bear man makes his appearance, it is the main event.

The event continues until sunday, when the straw bear’s costume is burned in a ceremony. Local pubs and bars are open and it is a time to drink plenty of ale. In some other parts of England as well as in central Europe and Germany the same tradition have also been seen. However, Whittlesey may be the only town that still celebrates it.