Up Helly Aa is an annual fire festival which takes place in Lerwick, Scotland – usually on the last Tuesday in January. It involves a variety of visitations and marches, culminating in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a huge galley.

What date is the Up Helly Aa 2021 ?
Up Helly Aa starts on Tuesday, 26 Jan 2021 and it’s a one-day event.

The Up Helly Aa refers to a variety of fire festivals in Lerwick, in the middle of winter to mark the end of the Yule season. The following Wednesday is a public holiday in Lerwick to allow for recovery.

Up Helly Aa is a lot more than a sub-arctic bonfire. It’s an amazing spectacle and celebration of Shetland Viking history, which demonstrates the skills and spirit of islanders.

It runs completely by volunteers and lasts only a day, but it takes several thousand people and a whole year to organize properly.

The biggest secret of the Up Helly Aa is what the “Guizer Jarl” will wear and which character from the Norse Sagas he will represent each year.

Lerwick’s Jarl will have been planning (and saving up for) the longest day of his life for 15 years or more, before he dons his raven-winged helmet, grabs ax and shield, and embarks on a 24-hour sleepless marathon.

On the evening of Up Helly Aa day, close to 1000 heavily-disguised men, in groups called “squads” appear in the streets of the city. Only the Jarl Squad should wear Viking costumes, the rest ranges from the almost sublime to absolutely fun and ridiculous.

The famous torchlight procession usually consists of nearly 1000 guizers who carry their Torches through the town, following the Galley along the route. During this period, the town is in darkness and the streetlights are switched off.