Get Up-Helly-Aa and Get Your Viking On

January 11, 2011
up helly aa

Awesome photo by the BBC

“Oh boy, sleep! That’s where I’m a Viking!” – Ralph Wiggum

Unlike Ralph, I’ve never been able to dream myself into Vikinghood, but I’ve often thought it would be cool to experience the raw, primal Viking lifestyle.

Not for weeks, of course, but maybe for a few hours. After that I would probably want a hot shower, a comfy mattress and electricity.

Well, if you make your way to Scotland you can get a look at Viking life through one of their fire festivals. It might be too late to plan for this year, but Up-Helly-Aa, Britain’s biggest fire festival, is held in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of every January to mark the end of the pagan Yule season, so you can start planning now for next year.

And just what is a fire festival? According to visitscotland.com it’s “a 1000-strong torchlit procession of ‘guizers’ followed by the spectacular burning of a viking longship or galley. The squads of guizers then perform acts and dances in various halls into the early hours.”

Fire! Dances! People dressed like Vikings! I love it!

Lerwick’s Up-Helly-Aa isn’t the only fire festival though. Celebrations continue throughout January, February and March:

Scalloway Fire Festival                    
Nesting Up-Helly-Aa                      
Uyeasound Up-Helly-Aa                  
Northmavine Up-Helly-Aa                
Bressay Up-Helly-Aa                        
Cullivoe Up-Helly-Aa                         
Norwick Up-Helly-Aa                         
South Mainland Up-Helly-Aa           
Brae Up-Helly-Aa                               
Friday, January 14
Friday, February 4
Friday, February 11
Friday, February 18
Friday, February 25
Friday, February 25
Saturday, February 26
Friday, March 11
Friday, March 18

I can’t believe I’m missing this, but it’s going on my travel to-do list for next year. See you there?


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