Thousands line Shetland streets for Up Helly Aa fire festival

Thousands of people gathered for Up Helly Aa as the world-famous fire festival was held in Lerwick.

Attracting visitors from around the globe, the Shetland spectacle takes place on the last Tuesday of January each year.

Originating in the 19th century, the festival celebrates Shetland’s Norse heritage with torchbearers dressing in costumes including traditional Vikings.

Up Helly Aa
A squad member carries a torch as he marches through Lerwick (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The ceremony culminated in the evening with a galley being set alight and fireworks high above the gathered crowds celebrating the annual tradition.

John Nicolson, chief guizer this year, led the men through the streets of the Shetland port towards the replica longboat.

This year, it was decorated in the distinctive green and white hoops of Celtic at Mr Nicolson’s behest, and without qualm from his brother David.

Up Helly Aa
The Jarl Squad circle the Galley ahead of it being set on fire (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The former Guizer Jarl and Rangers fan joked he would “take great delight in seeing it burn”.

Shetland and neighbouring Orkney were ruled by the Norse for about 500 years until they became part of Scotland in 1468.

The festival stems from the 1870s when a group of young local men wanted to put new ideas into Shetland’s Christmas celebrations.

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