Don’t worry, this festival is nothing violent or offensive. Up Helly Aa is a reference to all of the amazing festivals held in Shetland, Scotland. It is held annually in the dead of winter to mark the end of the yule season. What do these words mean? Well Up Helly Aa is complicated. Up is meant to represent something coming to an end, and this is from Old Norse. The word Uppi is from Faroese and Icelandic, and finally Helly means holiday/ holy day or festival. Aa may represents all. So you could say it as end of all holidays, as it is held to a close holiday or ours, New Years day.
The festival involves unto about a thousand guiders (that is, actors and actresses) in Lerwick (the capital of the Shetland islands), who march together around the towns and villages in colourful costumes which are in a variety of different themes.
The festival began with the older yule tradition which took place around the same time as Christmas and New Years. The tradition was bar telling, and this consisted of young men dragging barrels of burning tar throughout villages, and who would make up all sorts of mischief and trouble. After this tradition was abolished in 1880, permission was granted for torch processions instead.
Today, there is only one main guizer, who is then called the “Jarl.” they lead the people to throw torches in a replica of a viking longship. It is celebrated in Scalloway, Lerwick, Nesting, and Girlsta. After this, each squad performs a show at local schools, signing and dancing.
It is truly a sight to see.