Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, England

Whittlesea-Ewan-Bellamy

It’s something that resembles the end of a drunken night: dress up as a straw bear and dance for the locals, who might give you some food or drink out of sympathy.

But this is actually the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, held on the second weekend of January. In times past, an unfortunate man or boy was covered in straw and led from one house to another, where a nimble jig could earn him a beverage.

The tradition died out in the early 20th century when the local police labelled it a form of begging. It was revived in 1980, and the straw bear’s procession now features more than 250 dancers and musicians, with a decorated plough pulled by morris dancers.

The costume is burnt on the Sunday, much to the delight of the poor lad who had to wear it.

Written by - Photo by Ewan Bellamy

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