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Up Helly Aa

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In Lerwick, the capital of Scotland's Shetland Islands, a fire festival named Up Helly Aa is held every January to mark the end of the yule season. Local participants called guizers celebrate their Norse heritage, dressing in Viking gear and marching through town with battle axes and torches as they drag a ceremonial Viking longboat. At the end of the procession, the guizers hurl their torches onto the longboat and set it ablaze. After the flames die down, guizers sing the traditional song "The Norseman's Home" before a night of partying. [21 photos]

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Flames engulf a viking longboat as it is set on fire during the Up Helly Aa fire festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/David Moir)
Flames engulf a viking longboat as it is set on fire during the Up Helly Aa fire festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/David Moir)
Participants dressed as Vikings prepare to participate in the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
A young participant dressed as a Viking prepares for Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man dressed as a Viking has his hair braided for Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Participants, guizers, dressed as Vikings prepare for Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Guizers march during the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Young Jarl Squad vikings shout as they march through the streets on the morning of the Up Helly Aa fire festival in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/David Moir) #
Members of the 2013 "Jarl Squad" during the Up Helly Aa procession on the Shetland Islands, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Jarl Squad vikings shout during Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/David Moir) #
Members of the Jarl Squad light torches during Up Helly Aa, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Guizer Jarl Stephen Grant stands on a doomed Viking longboat before it is set on fire during the Up Helly Aa fire festival in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/David Moir) #
Members of the Jarl Squad circle the longboat with torches during Up Helly Aa, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Members of the Jarl Squad light more torches during the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
The Jarl Squad starts throwing torches at the longboat during Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
During Up Helly Aa, a Viking longboat starts to go up in flames, in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
A members of the Jarl Squad watches the longboat burn, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Flames engulf the longboat during Up Helly Aa, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/David Moir) #
Embers from the burning longboat blow past members of the 2013 Jarl Squad in Lerwick, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
The Jarl Squad, during Up Helly Aa, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
The Viking longboat is consumed by fire in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on January 29, 2013. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Flames engulf the dragon's head of the viking longboat as it burns during the Up Helly Aa fire festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/David Moir) #

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