Killing the Bear in Cantabria

The Bear captured by the Zarramacos Credit: Vijanera Facebook

Going back to Roman times, pagan festivals celebrated the New Year and this still carries on across Europe with Silio’s Vijanera being Spain’s most famous version.

Banned as a Pagan celebration

Soon after Franco gained control of the country, bowing to complaints from the Catholic Church, the many Vijaneras which took place across Northern Spain were banned.

It wasn’t until 1981 that a group of residents of the town of Silio (a suburb of Moledo in Cantabria) decided that the time had come to resurrect the festival although in that first year, it took place in the summer.

From 1982 onwards it returned to the turn of the year and is celebrated on the first Sunday of January each year when at 6am youngsters go through the town ringing bells and shout out that this is a special day.

As there were still a number of people still alive who remembered the Vijanera prior to its banning, it was relatively easy for the new version to follow the traditions of the past.

Around 150 mainly male locals dress up in 80 different costumes representing animals, wood sprites (Trapajones) men, women, hunters (Los Zarramaco) and many more.

Some of the 80 different characters
Credit: Vijanera Facebook

Hunting the Bear

The Zarramaco are dressed in sheepskins with large cowbells and it is their duty to hunt the Bear which represents evil and once it is killed so the New Year may be welcomed in with the promise of a fresh start.

As is the case with most Spanish festivals, following the excitement of the chase, which is watched by thousands of locals and visitors, the evening sees a great deal of entertainment and the option of enjoying a few drinks and food.

If you can’t wait until January 2025 for the next event, there is a small museum in Silio dedicated to the Vijanera which is housed  in a 17thcentury building.

Silio Museum
Credit: Silio Interpretation Centre

So famous is the Silio Vijanera that in January 2024 the Spanish Post Office (Correos) issued a stamp to celebrate this event of National Tourist Interest.

Presentation of the stamp in Silio
Credit: Silio Interpretation Centre

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page