The Rye Bear Carnival

New life for an ancient tradition

The Rye Bear in Valdieri | APAM Archive, G.Bernardi

The Rye Bear yesterday

The origins of the carnival figure of the Rye Bear are lost even in the memory of the elderly. From the notes of the folklorist Euclide Milano we were able to reconstruct the traditional festival as it would have been at the beginning of the twentieth century: «The carnival in Valdieri was once very complex and included: gnocchi in the square - election of the Abbots - cutting the head of a cockerel or a cat - testament to the Carnival - arrival of Lent ». Today the traditional distribution of potato gnocchi in the square continues and traces of the death of the Carnival remain, which is currently burned in the shape of a sheaf of straw after the bear escapes.
From the direct testimony of Bernardino Giraudo - Din del Papa , we know that the Bear was dressed in a hidden place. From there he chased through the streets of the village, held in chains by the tamers and followed by the perulìer or magnìn , the tinsmiths, children dressed in rags and soot, who made a great racket.
In short, the villagers formed a procession, with the musiciams (dressed up fancifully: the most daring even dressed as women) and the frà , fake friars who pompously recited epistles , rhyming verses in the local patois, making fun of the most well known people in the village, but also poking fun at those who stood out for their avarice, arrogance, wiliness ...

Rye Bear today

Thanks to the work that the Park and the Rye Ecomuseum have done together with the local population, in recent years the Alpine Carnival has come to life again. On the morning of the first Sunday of Lent, under the arcades of the town hall of Valdieri, the Proloco group distributes gnocchi (potato dumplings). The Valdieresi bring saucepans to be filled and return home to eat; visitors can eat their gnocchi in the square. Returning to the town hall square in the afternoon, there are Occitan music players with hurdy-gurdy and semitoun (the traditional diatonic organ) to accompany the crowd gathered to celebrate the Carnival. At this point, the Rye Bear rushes in, coming down from the mountain to perform, with roars, wild and impish gesticulation, according to a script that has remained unchanged. Compared to the past though, today the bear is less coarse and more "politically correct": its jokish behaviour aims above all to entertain adults and children, both the Valdieresi and the increasing number of visitors.

To learn more

Visit the website of Ecomuseo della Segale.