Bear Festivities in Andorra

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Since late 2022, the popular Bear dances celebrated in Ordino and Encamp have been inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The inscription of the events came as part of the ‘Bear Festivities in the Pyrenees’ project conducted alongside France, incorporating the five villages of Ordino, Encamp (Andorra), Arles-sur-Tech, Prats de Molló and Sant Llorenç de Cerdans (Alt Vallespir, France).

The Bear in Encamp and Ordino
In Andorra, both performances form part of the winter festive cycle.

Encamp’s ‘Bear Dance’ is a traditional performance that currently takes place on Carnival Monday. Since the 1950s, it has followed the script written by Rossend Marsol, nicknamed ‘Sícoris’. It is believed that the festivities began during the Middle Ages, and in the past would have been held around Candlemas.

In Ordino, the performance of ‘L’última Ossa’ (The Last Bear) was traditionally held during Carnival in the town square, in front of the church of Sant Corneli and Sant Cebrià. It later came to be celebrated on Saint Stephen’s Day. Since its comeback in 2017, after years of being almost discontinued, it now takes place in the first week of December in the gardens of the Casa Areny-Plandolit Museum. The recovery of cultural events such as "L'ultima ossa d'Ordino" has enabled Ordino to highlight its traditions and cultures to great acclaim, leading to it being named one of the World Tourism Organization's (UNWTO) Best Tourism Villages. 

Symbol of the relationship between humans and nature
UNESCO highlights that these winter festivities - which were already part of Andorra’s heritage inventory - symbolise the relationship between humans and nature, as the celebrations take place in different towns and among different families, with a tone of social criticism and satire.

It also highlights that with elements drawn from legends, these communities have enriched their popular heritage, giving each performance a unique identity with its own language, music and dance.

Both the performance in Ordino and that in Encamp openly talk about the events of the year in a festive way, full of sarcasm. The bear becomes a symbol of any difficulties. Thus, when the animal is caught, people are actually fighting against all the circumstances and setbacks they have had. Working together in a good-humoured way, people use their ingenuity and the tools they have developed to overcome the Bear.

The Encamp Festival Committee and the Ordino Cultural Association, with the support of the Government’s Cultural Heritage department, are the organisations tasked with enabling the Andorran part of the celebration and ensuring dissemination of this event inscribed on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list.

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