Helly days

Friday Mar 15, 2024

Last week it was time for South Mainland Up Helly Aa – our local fire festival.

South Mainland Up Helly Aa (SMUHA) is one of the 12 fire festivals that take place between January and March – each in a different location around Shetland.

We find SMUHA particularly special because it's so very local to us – a lovely, welcoming event which brings the community together.

Away from the procession itself there are visits from the Jarl Squad to schools and the care centre, hops (dances) and other community events.

The galley burning, which at SMUHA is waterborne, is at a different site each year – depending on where the Jarl is from. 

On the beach at Scousburgh, guizers holding flaming torches circle the replica viking ship at South Mainland Up Helly Aa

This year, the weather was very cold, clear and still at Scousburgh Sands

Jarl Leigh Smith AKA Thorfinn the Mighty, his family and all those involved made it a spectacular evening.

Guizers dressed as Vikings process holding torches at South Mainland Up Helly Aa - Smuha
Listen to one of the Up Helly Aa songs here.

Guizers circled the viking ship on the beach while singing traditional Up Helly Aa songs, accompanied by Lerwick Brass Band.

Then it was time for the burning, and more singing, before the boat was launched into the sea.

Just off the sea at Scousburgh, Shetland, the viking galley is ablaze as it floats at sea. A firework lights up the sky

Sometimes, as the evening unfolds, Up Helly Aa celebrations can take a surreal turn.

Guizers at Sandwick Hall, during South Mainland Up Helly Aa. Wearing astronaut costumes, the guizers perform a satirical skit.
Up Helly Aa skits often have topical references – a space port is being developed in the island of Unst.

Different groups of guizers perform skits in the various South Mainland halls, after the boat burning.

It can become a long and boisterous night...

Viking guizers at Sandwick Hall during South Mainland Up Helly Aa. Male and femaile guizers process with axes.

Can you guess which traditional Norse number is being sung in rousing fashion in our Instagram video below (you'll need sound on!)? Clue: it's not The Up Helly Aa Song...

 Huge effort goes into making clothing, weaponry and all the regalia needed to be a guizer in the Jarl Squad. 

The craft and attention to detail is wonderful. Our Hoswick neighbour, Karlin Anderson, was commissioned to make bespoke jewellery by the Jarl and his wife.

If you're interested in visiting Shetland during Up Helly Aa season you can find out more here.

With thanks to Ami, Fiona and Richard for their SMUHA photos!
Tagged with: musings

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