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Who could have thunk that a bear could be a symbol of love? After all, a teddybear (usually holding a box of chocolates) is a common present on Valentine’s Day but what is the link between a sweet-looking plush toy and the formidable “king of the animals”?

The bear, the symbol of love in Europe

The bear was a powerful image from prehistory to the early Middle Age. He was present all over Europe and wad the most dangerous animal that one could encounter.

However, the bear is also highly intelligent and could sometimes walk on his two hind legs like a human, therefore, he was seen as close to mankind. Under the influence of Christianity, the bear will become a symbol of lust and overflowing sexuality and as such, will be demonized.

Still, in Central Europe and in the Pyrenees, during carnivals, men disguise themselves as bears to please women and engage in love and sexual rituals before being symbolically put to death.

Over the years, the bear will lose its bestiality. It will even be ridiculed, sometimes reduced to the state of a circus beast. Finally, it will become the symbol of a “gallant” love, whose last remnant is the teddybear that lovers exchange today on Valentine’s Day. 

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