in Weird & Wonderful at in Lerwick
29 January 2013 - 29 January 2013 (TBC)
28 January 2014 - 28 January 2014 (TBC)
The Lerwick Up Helly Aa is a magnificent fire festival, incorporating the burning of a Viking galley and a torchlit parade. Nearly 1000 people dressed as Vikings or in other fancy dress take to the streets for this community-defining event.
The Up Helly Aa is said by some to hark back to an ancient Viking practice of burning a galley as a sacrifice to the sun; others maintain it is held to herald the beginning of spring. Whatever the reason, this extraordinary event is attended by visitors from all over Scotland.
The proceedings begin in the early evening when parade members known as "guizers" assemble in the town centre at Hillhead. The parade is led by the "jarl", dressed as a fearsome looking Viking warrior. The guizers form themselves into squads who each choose a distinct theme for their costumes. They all set off, torches aflame, dragging an enormous, specially constructed Viking galley. When they reach the burning site, all the paraders fling their flaming torches into the boat, which goes up in a tremendous blaze.
Once the blaze has died down, all the squads file off to visit the 11 local halls where they perform their set pieces - singing special songs or performing a dance routine they have prepared. The festival ends with a big ceilidh which goes on late into the night.
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