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Lerwick Up Helly Aa 2020: In Pictures

by Promote Shetland -

Shetland's Fire Festival Season lasts from January until March. Here are some highlights from the biggest event in the calendar, Lerwick Up Helly Aa, which took place on the last Tuesday in January and lasted a full 24 hours.

The morning

The morning of Lerwick Up Helly Aa sees the Jarl Squad (Vikings), led by the Guizer Jarl (Viking chief) proudly parade through the streets of Lerwick. It's an opportunity for the squad to show off their magnificent Viking costumes, which take years of planning to create, and to pose for photos next to the galley (Viking longship), which will be ceremoniously burned later in the evening. Joining the Senior Lerwick Up Helly Aa Jarl Squad, are the Junior Jarl Squad, involving pupils from Lerwick's secondary school.

The afternoon

The Jarl Squads spend the afternoon of Up Helly Aa visiting various spots in Lerwick, including Shetland Museum where they sing a rousing rendition of the Up Helly Aa song. The Junior Jarl Squad also visit the arts venue Mareel and Islesburgh Community Centre to entertain locals and visitors who are enjoying traditional Shetland music sessions at these venues.

The evening procession

In the evening, the Senior Jarl Squad are joined by over 1,000 guizers (men dressed up) to lead a torch-lit parade through the streets of Lerwick. This culminates in the burning of the galley (longship). The fiery procession is quite the spectacle and attracts tourists from across the globe.

Into the night

After the burning of the galley, there's a night of dancing and revelry as all the Up Helly Aa guizers tour the 11 halls (venues) in squads across Lerwick where they perform a comedy sketch, dance or song to an exhuberant crowd. These celebrations go on the whole night before everyone makes their way home in the early hours. And that's Up Helly Aa over for another year. Unless, of course you're one of the hardcore revellers who can make it out the next evening for Hop Night, but that's a story for another blog...!

To find out more about Shetland's fire festivals, visit the dedicated Up Helly Aa website, or the Fire Festival Season pages on our website.

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