According to the local tradition the parade of the bear and the noble court is the reenactment of an episode which really happened at the time of Prince Domenico Alliata Di Giovanni, who was Lord of Saponara and of its surrounding lands, when Saponara was one of the Sicilian princedoms.
A legend says that suddenly a huge and ferocious bear appeared, it devoured many animals and terrorized shepherds and farmers. Then, the prince sent his guards to hunt this beast. So, the dangerous animal was captured and chained.
During a long walk along the village’s street the prince showed the bear to all the citizens. The parade was intended to calm people and to bring the peasants back to work. But it aimed at warning who could plan a rebellion against the prince too. In fact, the strong enchained bear had to consolidate the prestige and power of the Lord of Saponara.
Another idea is that the presence of such a rare animal aroused curiosity and Saponara attracted people.
Legend has it that, on the anniversary of the capture, every year the bear was triumphantly carried through the streets of the town in the presence of the prince and noble people.
After the bear’s death, inhabitants decided to keep this habit by organizing the parade. A person wore the skin of the dead animal and another one acted the part of the prince. Since then, the parade has taken place like a real show at Carnival every year. Later, some elements have been added to the tradition, such as the musical band or the folklorist groups, who sing and wear typical costumes.
A citizen wears the bear’s costume, which is made of authentic skin, with a leather belt and many cowbells. Some chains are attached and pulled by the “guards”, who are the peasants. Numerous noble people precede the bear, there are the prince and the princess, their children and the local nobility. The prince proudly wears a military officer’s suit, the princess wears a long white dress, both characters look serious and elegant. Other emblematic protagonists are the so called pacchiane, women with a traditional costume. Their task is sweeping the streets before the arrival of the court. Finally, the bear dances a romantic waltz with the princess so symbolizing the return of peace in the town.