Mon Dec 9, 2019
Shetland is well known for its legendary Up Helly Aa fire festival, but did you know that Shetland actually holds 10 Viking Fire Festivals? Spanning from January to March, a number of smaller Viking fire festivals are held all across the Isles.
Despite the celebrations harking back to Shetland’s Viking past, the Up Helly Aa festival is a bit more modern, and actually came from a mid Victorian tradition of Shetland young men dragging lit tar barrels around Lerwick as a celebration of old Yuletide and New Year. By 1870, the format changed as it was moved to late January and an element of ‘guizing’ was introduced; disguises worn by the young men, and a torchlight procession became part of the whole event. By the 1880s the Viking theme was introduced, and Up Helly Aa has grown in popularity ever since!
Nowadays the main Lerwick Up Helly Aa is well run by a committee of dedicated local men, who work tirelessly to ensure that the hundreds of guizers, and thousands of guests and revelers can enjoy the festival. Each of these men on the Committee will get the chance to be the Guizer Jarl for the day.
The Guizer Jarl – or chief Viking – will be the main focal point for the day. He and his Viking crew will show off their crafted Viking Longboat and elaborate Viking costumes in a procession through Lerwick, and with visits to local schools. However, when darkness falls across Lerwick, the town comes alive with the sound of flares, brass band and the smell of paraffin in the air. Over 800 guizers will parade, accompanying the longship on its final journey before it is burned. It is truly a spectacular sight, and well worth a visit to Shetland to see.
The night is not over there though! Halls and schools across Lerwick host the squads of guizers who visit, perform a short skit and a dance and then move onto the next hall. Partying goes on until the “wee sma’s” with many guizers only heading home by 8am the following morning!
Here at Herrislea we are ideally located to enjoy both the Lerwick Up Helly Aa, and the Scalloway Fire Festival which is held on the second Friday of January. You can also easily get to the Nesting and Girlsta Fire Festival which is held a mere 10 days after the main Lerwick Up Helly Aa. Why not make it a holiday to remember by seeing not one but two Fire Festivals?
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