Up Helly Aa: Vikings gather for fire festival in their thousands

The spectacle ends with the burning of a replica Viking galley boat 

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The Independent Online

Modern day Vikings gathered in their thousands last night for the annual Up Helly Aa fire festival.

Roughly 1,000 men dressed as the Norse seafarers descended upon the streets of Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. 

The popular fire festival dates back to the 1880s and celebrates the Shetlands Islands’ Viking heritage as well as the end of the Yule period. It is traditionally held every year on the last Tuesday of January.

As the video shows, Viking warriors, known as the Jarl Squad, braved the wind and the rain to teach the audience about their Viking ancestors.

The spectacle culminated with the burning of a replica Viking galley boat in a huge bonfire.

Preparations for the islands’ top festivity usually start in October, with the galley boat and more than 1,000 torches being made by volunteers.

Up Helly Aa festival attracts hundreds of visitors every year, boosting tourism in the area during the winter.