The Viking's Sheepskin

Up Helly Aa

Jan 28

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Up Helly Aa
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Today's Musings, History & Folklore

The Viking's Sheepskin

Up Helly Aa can refer  to any of a variety of fire festivals held in Shetland, Scotland, annually in the middle of winter to mark the end of the Yule season.   The largest festival takes place in Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January. 


Celebrations involve a series of marches and visitations, led by the "Jarl," culminating in a torch-lit procession, at the end of which, the torches are thrown into a replica of a Viking longship or galley.


The name of this festival derives from the Old Norse words which translate to "the end of the holidays."

The current Lerwick celebration grew out of an older Yule tradition of tar barrelling.   Squads of young men would drag barrels of burning tar through town on sledges, making mischief.  After the abolition of tar barrelling (1874–1880), permission was obtained for torch processions, which first took place on Up Helly a day in 1881.  Galley burning was introduced in 1889. 


Click the Up Helly Aa circle procession for the official Up Helly Aa site. 


And for a recipe for Shetland bannocks, click here.

The Viking's Sheepskin
The Viking's Sheepskin

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The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the


Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 


Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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