Thursday, February 2, 2012

Up Helly Aa Goes On The Bucket List

My love affair with Scotland continues, and I must say that although the warm temperatures in Atlanta are delightful, I would rather have been freezing in Lerwick Town,  Shetland Islands, for their annual Up Helly Aa celebration on Tuesday.  What a party!

This annual celebration originated in the late 1800's, and marks the end of the Yule season. 

The Shetland Islands have a strong connection to the Vikings - who ruled the Islands for about 500 years - so the participants honor that heritage by designing and making Viking costumes and building  a replica of a Viking Ship, which is hauled through the streets of Lerwick by Guizers and Jarl Squads.
Photo courtesy Carl de Souza, AFP, Getty Images.

The party starts at the crack of dawn on the last Tuesday of January every year, and the highlight of the festival is the ritual burning of the Viking Galley ship in the early evening.  Hundreds of torch-carrying Guizers and their leader, the Guizer Jarl,  throw their lit torches onto the ship to get the fire started...  

This year's Guizer Jarl, David Nicolson, was impressive in his hand-made costume that was two years in the planning and making.  For the Festival, he took the Viking name "Bothvar Egilsson", because he says he has within him the "spirit of a true berserker".  

In case you didn't know, a berserker is defined by The Free Dictionary as "one of a band of ancient Norse warriors legendary for their savagery and reckless frenzy in battle".  Plainly stated:  Do Not Make This Man Mad.

Above photos, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of  You can see more photos of this year's event by clicking on the link.

Photo courtesy Neil Ratley, in his very good article on Up Helly Aa in The Midge.  After reading this article, you can appreciate the dedication the Shetlanders have to the event...and you have to admire their partying stamina!

At any rate, after burning of the ship, the partying begins, everywhere, and continues all night.  And on Wednesday, Lerwick, Shetland is Closed.  For recovery. 

Is that a party, or what??  Definite Bucket List material.


M said...

I want to go to there...

Linda McMullan said...

Meg, it could be your BIRTHDAY party next year! Start saving up!

snowwhite said...

What a spectacular festival this is! I wish I were there and could enjoy it!
Especially, the first photo is stunning! It takes me back to the ancient days.

snowwhite said...

I am sorry, I missed this one.

Linda McMullan said...

Keiko, I'm so glad you saw this post - the historical connections made me think of you! Thanks for your comment.


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