The Burning Galley
That's not the end of it, for throughout the rest of the winter each gang of guizers will hold their own 'squad dances' for family and friends. By early autumn, there'll be the first meetings to arrange the next year's performance, while at the Galley Shed in St Sunniva Street the shipwrights, carpenters and their helpers will be starting work on the new galley, not forgetting 'the boys who made the torches'.
'From grand old Viking centuries, Up Helly Aa has come...' That's what the guizers sing but in fact the festival is only just over 100 years old in its present, highly organised form. In the 19th century Up Helly Aa was often riotous. Special constables were called in to curb trigger-happy drunks firing guns in the air - and dragging a blazing tar barrel through the streets, sometimes leaving it on the doorstep of the year's least popular worthy burgher. Today's festival is much better behaved.
Fire, Feasting and Fancy Dress
The ingredients in the Up Helly Aa recipe go back 12 centuries and more - fire, feasting, fancy dress and, above all, fun. The torchlit procession and galley burning echo pagan Norse rituals at the cremation of great chieftains, and religious ceremonies to mark the Sun's return after the winter solstice.
Elaborate disguise was part of prehistoric fertility rites. Mediaeval Shetland guizers were called 'skeklers' and wore costumes of straw. The feasting and dancing continue saga traditions from the winter drinking halls of Viking warriors, while the satirical 'Bill' or proclamation, lampooning local worthies and fixed to the Lerwick Market Cross on Up Helly Aa morning, has precedents in the sharp wit of the Norse skalds.
If you should miss the Lerwick Up Helly Aa (or if it gives you the taste for more of the same), don't despair - there are another eight fire festivals in various districts of Shetland during the late winter.
And the country Up Hellies A' do NOT ban women from being torch-bearers and guizers. Don't mention that in Lerwick, though - where the men-only rule is a ticklish topic in these politically correct days.