Up Helly Aa Fire Festival – Lerwick
LAST TUESDAY IN JANUARY.
IT’S WILD AND WOOLLY UP HERE ON THE SHETLAND ISLES.
Which might explain this festival’s obsession with fire. Sitting at the same latitude as the bottom half of Greenland, the locals know all about the cold, so don’t expect any sympathy if you’re a sensitive mainlander.
OK, WE WON’T LET THE WEATHER GET THE BETTER OF US. BUT WE STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON.
It’s easy to see why the whole thing comes across as just a wee bit crazy – rowdy local men dressed as Vikings, tramping shoulder-to-shoulder through the centre of Lerwick carrying flaming torches. It’s a fiery, boozy, boisterous celebration of the island’s Viking heritage and cultural ancestry, which culminates in the burning of a life-sized replica of a longship.
FORGET THE FIRE, IT ALL SOUNDS LIKE IT’S TESTOSTERONE-FUELLED TO US.
The parade is men-only (must be a Viking thing) but don’t think that women won’t get in on the partying that happens after the bonfire. The whole thing only lasts 24 hours, but it’s non-stop from start to finish.