You’ve heard of a straw poll and a paper tiger, but have you heard of a Straw Bear? If you are in Whittlesea, 6 miles east of Peterborough on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th January this year, you could get to see one (other straw bears are available, particularly in Europe, but they tend to appear later in the year).
Dances in exchange for money, food or beer
A straw bear is a man covered from head to toe in straw who dances in exchange for money, food or beer. The custom died out around 1909 when it was regarded by the local police as begging. However it, was reinstated in the 1980s, and if you hang around a Whittlesea pub long enough at this time of year the chances are you’ll see the bear.
Why a pub? Well, it means the bear is sure to find an audience, but also, with the costume weighing roughly five stone the chap playing the bear is bound to need a bevy or two. The bear has quite a following; including Morris dancers, clog dancers, sword dancers and local farmers pulling a specially decorated plough. On Sunday the bear is burnt (the costume that is, not the guy playing the bear), but don’t worry another costume will be ready in time for 2018.