Photos: Up Helly Aa: Europe’s Biggest Fire Festival Takes Place in the Shetland Islands
By Ewan Palmer | Jan 31, 2013 02:57 AM EDT
Despite the blustering winds and heavy rain, Up Helly Aa - Europe's biggest fire festival - has taken place in the Shetland Islands.
Held every year in Lerwick in the Shetlands, the festival celebrates the small Scottish island's Viking heritage and is traditionally held on the last Tuesday of January.
The event concludes with a spectacular burning of a replica Viking longboat, followed by hours of performers and dances throughout dozens of halls situated across Lerwick.
During the day, a band of latter-day Viking warriors known as the Jarl Squad attend a series of marches and public appearances, including school where they teach children about Vikings and they visit the Shetlands.
The event attracts visitors from across the world and is seen as a welcome tourism boost to the Shetland Islands.
Below are some of the highlights from this year's fire festival:
Flames engulf a viking longboat as it is set on fireSource: Reuters Date:01/31/2013
Jarl Squad vikings shout during the Up Helly Aa fire festival in Lerwick, Shetland IslandsSource: Reuters Date:01/31/2013
Guizer Jarl Stephen Grant stands on a viking longboat before it is set on fireSource: Reuters Date:01/31/2013
Jarl Squad vikings huddle together as they sing on a replica longboat on the morning of the Up Helly Aa fire festivalSource: Reuters Date:01/31/2013
The festival takes place annually on the last Tuesday of JanuarySource: Reuters Date:01/31/2013
Young Jarl Squad vikings also get involved by shouting as they march through the streetsSource: Reuters Date:01/31/2013
Jarl squad vikings eat their breakfast in the Islesburgh Community CentreSource: Reuters Date:01/31/2013
The Up Helly Aa festival, introduced by men returning from the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th centurySource: Reuters Date:01/31/2013