The Up Helly Aa festival: celebrating Viking roots

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Up Helly Aa festival
Lyall Gair, the Guizer Jarl, sings with the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking suits in the Royal British Legion during the parade through the street in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lyall Gair, the Guizer Jarl, sings with the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking suits in the Royal British Legion during the parade through the street in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
A young member of the Jarl Squad dressed in a Viking suit sounds his horn before the start of the parade through the streets in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lyle Hair, the Quizer Jarl, sings with the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking suits in the Toll Clock Shopping Centre during the parade through the street in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Members of the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking suits stop off at the Royal British Legion club during their parade through the streets in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lyle Hair, the Quizer Jarl, leads the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking suits on a parade through the street in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
A young member of the Jarl Squad dressed in a Viking suit before the start of the parade through the streets in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
The belt buckle of Lyle Hair, the Quizer Jarl, who leads the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking suits on a parade through the street in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Participants dressed as Vikings pose by a long boat in the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on January 31, 2017. Up Helly Aa celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian Vikings in the Shetland Islands and culminates with up to 1,000 'guizers' (men in costume) throwing flaming torches into their Viking longboat and setting it alight later in the evening. / AFP / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Junior members of the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking suits stop off at the Royal British Legion club during their parade through the streets in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Participants dressed as Vikings pose by a long boat in the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on January 31, 2017. Up Helly Aa celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian Vikings in the Shetland Islands and culminates with up to 1,000 'guizers' (men in costume) throwing flaming torches into their Viking longboat and setting it alight later in the evening. / AFP / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants dressed as Vikings march down a street in the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on January 31, 2017. Up Helly Aa celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian Vikings in the Shetland Islands and culminates with up to 1,000 'guizers' (men in costume) throwing flaming torches into their Viking longboat and setting it alight later in the evening. / AFP / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants dressed as Vikings march down a street in the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on January 31, 2017. Up Helly Aa celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian Vikings in the Shetland Islands and culminates with up to 1,000 'guizers' (men in costume) throwing flaming torches into their Viking longboat and setting it alight later in the evening. / AFP / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
LERWICK, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 31: Members of the Jarl Squad march through the streets of Lerwick on January 31, 2017 in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. The traditional festival of fire is known as 'Up Helly Aa'. The spectacular event takes place annually on the last Tuesday of January. The climax of the day comes with participants in full costume hauling a Viking longboat through the streets of Lerwick to the edge of town where up to 1000 people parade and throw their flaming torches into the galley. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Members of the Jarl Squad set fire to their Viking longship during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Members of the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking costumes carry flaming torches during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
LERWICK, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 31: The Jarl squad begin to light torches at the culmination of Up Hell Aa on January 31, 2017 in Lerwick, Shetland. The traditional festival of fire, known as Up Helly Aa, takes place annually on the last Tuesday of January. The climax of the day came with participants wearing costumes as they hauled a Viking long boat through the streets of Lerwick to the edge of town where up to 1000 paraders set the vessel ablaze by throwing torches into the galley. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Members of the Jarl Squad light their torches prior to marching through the streets of Lerwick during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival on the Shetland Isles. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Members of the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking costumes carry flaming torches during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Participants dressed as Vikings burn their viking galley ship at the culmination of the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on January 31, 2017. Up Helly Aa celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian Vikings in the Shetland Islands and culminates with up to 1,000 'guizers' (men in costume) throwing flaming torches into their Viking longboat and setting it alight later in the evening. / AFP / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants dressed as Vikings prepare to burn their viking galley ship at the culmination of the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on January 31, 2017. Up Helly Aa celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian Vikings in the Shetland Islands and culminates with up to 1,000 'guizers' (men in costume) throwing flaming torches into their Viking longboat and setting it alight later in the evening. / AFP / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants dressed as Vikings carry torches as they march in procession before burning their viking galley ship at the culmination of the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on January 31, 2017. Up Helly Aa celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian Vikings in the Shetland Islands and culminates with up to 1,000 'guizers' (men in costume) throwing flaming torches into their Viking longboat and setting it alight later in the evening. / AFP / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
LERWICK, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 31: The Jarl squad begin to light torches at the culmination of Up Hell Aa on January 31, 2017 in Lerwick, Shetland. The traditional festival of fire, known as Up Helly Aa, takes place annually on the last Tuesday of January. The climax of the day came with participants wearing costumes as they hauled a Viking long boat through the streets of Lerwick to the edge of town where up to 1000 paraders set the vessel ablaze by throwing torches into the galley. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LERWICK, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 31: Guzier Jarl Lyall Gair and his Jarl throw their torches onto the galley on January 31, 2017 in Lerwick, Shetland. The traditional festival of fire, known as Up Helly Aa, takes place annually on the last Tuesday of January. The climax of the day came with participants wearing costumes as they hauled a Viking long boat through the streets of Lerwick to the edge of town where up to 1000 paraders set the vessel ablaze by throwing torches into the galley. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Members of the Jarl Squad set fire to their Viking longship during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
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The annual Up Helly Aa festival is in full swing in the Shetland, Scotland. Every year people from all over travel to the Shetland to honor the islands and their own Viking origins. The festival dates back to the 1880s, and since then it has only been canceled three times.

It was first canceled in 1901 for the death of Queen Victoria, then from 1914 to 1919 during WWI and lastly from 1940 to 1948 during WWII. Coincidentally it has only been postponed three times. In the 1900s for two weeks due to influenza, another two weeks in 1936 due to the death of George V and for the final time it was postponed for one week for the death of Winston Churchill.

The celebrations start with a march through the town lead by the Guizer Jarl; the leader of the honorary vikings for the day who are referred to as the Jarl Squad. The vikings then proceed into the market cross where they will view the proclamation of the year. From there the Jarl and the Jarl Squad march to the Bressay Ferry Terminal where they will pose for photos.

After the vikings have been photographed they head to a private civic reception at the town hall. A toast is given before the Guizer Jarl is given free reign of the two for 24 hours.

Once the Guizer Jarl is in charge he will head out with his squad in tow to visit the local schools, nursing homes, and lastly the Shetland Museum.

Finally at 5:30 pm the firey Viking fun begins. The junior Guizer Jarl and his squad appear and march down to light their viking ship (also known as a 'peerie' galley) ablaze. At 7:15 the junior Jarl and his squad depart and the senior processors march to the front where they will light more than 900 torches that will then burn the final ship of the night.

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