Up Helly Aa

(YouTube link)

The festival known as Up Helly Aa happens in Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland, on the last Tuesday in January, which was the 29th this year. The celebration is led by the elected Guizer Jarl, or head Viking, and his Jarl Squad, clad in different historic uniforms each year. The squad performs various ceremonial duties during the day, and at night the town's lights are turned off while they lead a procession of up to a thousand men carrying torches while thousands more watch. The public is not allowed to watch the end of the procession, in which the torches are used to ceremoniously burn a Viking galley. After the boat is burned, the guizers return to the village for parties and merrymaking. The festival began in the 1800s as rowdy street parties around Christmas evolved into more civilized rituals. A group of young men introduced the Viking theme into the celebrations around 1870. The oldest and biggest Up Helly Aa is at Lerwick, but other towns in Shetland carry on the rituals as well. There is yet no video of the 2013 fire procession on YouTube, but this report from the BBC from Tuesday gives you a good idea of what happened. Link -via the Presurfer

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