Up Helly Aa is an annual festival celebrated in Lerwick, Shetland in Scotland. The festival usually starts with processions, marches and visitations of people holding torches. This activity is followed by singing, dancing, and performing in group.
It is also one of the largest fire festivals in Europe, as it involves burning of the replica of Viking gallery. Celebrated on the lat Tuesday of January each year, Up Helly Aa is attended by thousands of people, and the number is increasing every year.
The first torch procession was witnessed in the year 1876. After a few years, in 1881, the day was named as ‘Up Helly Aa’, and it was celebrated for the first time. In 1889, the Europeans burnt their first Viking Gallery, a feat that is being witnessed every year now. Among the guizers, one is elected to become ‘Jarl’. For any one to become Jarl, it is important to stay with the committee for at least 15 years.
As soon as the celebration starts, the torches that the people carry are tossed in the replica of the Viking gallery. It is basically held in Shetland, mainly in the areas of Nesting & Girlsta, Norwick, Scalloway, Bressay, Lerwick, Delting, and South Mainland. After this celebration, participants enter in any halls like sports facilities, schools, hotels, etc. and become a part of the ongoing party. People dance, sing, or perform anything t the center of the hall.
Initially, women were not allowed to take part in Up Helly Aa event. However, subsequently, it was open for all. This is the reason why many men now dress as female in the festival. But due to this act, the event has been casually named as ‘Transvestite Tuesday’.
Due to its popularity, many people from around the country, as well as from other neighboring countries have started to take part in this event. The scene looks really beautiful when the street lights are switched on at 7 pm.