Up Helly Aa: Scotland’s Fire Festival

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Each year in Scotland, thousands of men bearing torches parade through the streets on the last Tuesday of January to mark the end of the Yule Season. Though only officially begun in 1881, the Up Helly Aa day fire festivals have their roots in ancient Anglo Saxon rites. Revelers pay homage to this history by dressing in full costume and electing a Jarl to head the festivities. The Jarl and his committee lead the torch-bearers through the town to a replica of a Viking longship, which they set ablaze with the torches. After the burning, townspeople retire to local public halls for a night of dancing and performances. The Wednesday after is taken as a day of recovery before “Hop Night” when the festivities continue until morning.