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Fire Raisers

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Jarl Squad Outfit   © JJ Jamieson, Shetland

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Up Helly Aa is the famous Shetland fire festival which originated in the late 1800s. However, it is not just the one annual festival that is shown on TV, but twelve festivals that run from January until March in communities across the Shetland Islands.  

Each festival will have groups of up to 50 guizers formed into squads, and the largest festival, in Lerwick, could have up to 50 squads attending.  Only one squad at each festival will be dressed up as Vikings and they will be led by the Guizer Jarl.  Up until 2015 this was a role that was only open to men, but the community fire festivals now allow women to take part, or even be the respected Guizer Jarl.

Each Jarl Squad will dedicate their spare time in the winter evenings and weekends to creating their handmade costumes and the replica Viking ship which will be the burning centre piece of Up Helly Aa. All ages work together to create their outfits which will be kept secret until the event. To be part of the Jarl Squad is a huge honour. 

The non-Viking squads will choose themes as obscure as superheroes to historical characters.  As they are also part of the entertainment that follows the fire festival in the village halls, they each practise a musical, comedy or dance number that they perform as they travel round the halls. It is a whole community event which will mean that everyone celebrates until dawn. 

Video Gallery 2 ::

Video Gallery 2 :::  

Making the suits

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