"O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content"
Robbie Burns

Monday, January 31, 2011

Up Helly-Aa

The Jarl of the Up Helly-Aa Fire Festival on the Shetland Islands, Scotland

This Nordic fire festival ( picture above) that takes place all over the Shetland Islands north of mainland Scotland in mid-winter which usually happens on the 30 January each year. It is believed to be THE largest fire festivall over Europe and represents the end of the Yule season. There is nothing "Scottish" festival with its origins in Nordic/Viking culture of the earliest inhabitants.

There is a committee who pick a "Jarl" or what the mainland calls an ear, complete with has his own squad. One of the more famous Jarls of Scotland was William St. Clair who built the famed Roslyn Chapel, mid-Lothian. The "Jarl" leads his company of "guizers" who are all dressed in Viking garb of old as both Orkney and Shetland carrying torches through the town toward a full Viking galley and are joined with other squads in other themes to march in the torchlight parade.

In Lerwick which is the largest of the festivals, the galley is lit on fire to the cheers of the crowd. But in other areas on the islands the galley is lit and then set afloat in the traditional Viking burial custom.

After the burning of the galley the squads of "guizers" visit all sorts of community locations and then go on to have a private parties to celebrate that winter is half way over. Each of the guizer squads choose different themes .which can be historical, ethnic c or cultural themes from modern pop culture. The following are some of the guizer squads...

Britain's Go Talent

Star Trek

A great way to break up the dreary Scottish Winter.



Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, Jody. Thanks for posting this. My nephew and I just had a good laugh watching Gaz Vadar and the Bad Boy Stormtroopers.

Alexa said...

Great info, Jody!

Jody said...

What a fun time for the people in the dead of winter. I liked the vikings, what fun!

Anonymous said...

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great week-end

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