‘Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.’
To this day the plot by Guy Fawkes has never been forgotten, even if yearly the last three lines of the rhyme are. Bonfires and spectacular firework displays still take place across Britain as many see no reason, why gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.
The sixth of November, however, is not the end for bonfire building in Scotland, it’s only the beginning. Scotland continues to burn brightly, warming up the winter nights, with many fire festivals taking place from November up until January.
From Shetland to the Scottish Borders, here are the five fire festivals not to be missed.
Hogmanay is the biggest celebration in Scotland with many bonfires, fireworks displays and fire events happening up and down the country. For the villagers of Comrie in Perth the stroke of midnight on 31 December means it’s time to begin an ancient custom - setting alight the Flambeaux. Long, thin birch tree poles are set on fire before being paraded around the village to fend off evil spirits. The display is accompanied by pipe bands and a fancy dress parade.
Aberdeenshire welcomes in the New Year with a unique event, the Stonehaven Fireballs ceremony. The event, which has been held for at least 100 years, is led by a pipe band who herald in the procession of those walking down the street swinging great balls of fire above their heads. The fireball ceremony begins at midnight with entertainment beginning at 11pm. The evening is rounded off with a firework display to celebrate the New Year.
Burning of the Clavie
The 1750’s saw the revision of the Julian calendar and the introduction of the Gregorian calendar which meant New Year was now celebrated on 1January rather than 11 January. Residents of Burghead have continued to recognise the ‘old Hogmanay’ with the Burning of the Clavie, a unique fire festival. The clavie, traditionally a wooden barrel filled with staves, is paraded through the town and up the to the top of a local hill where it continues to burn into the next day.
Up Helly Aa
Bringing the season of fire festivals to a close is Up Helly Aa, Europe’s largest fire festival. Every year the historic event takes place on the last Tuesday in January, marking the end of Yuletide, and attracts visitors from both near and far. A thousand-strong torchlight procession takes place in the village and ends with the iconic burning of a replica Viking Longship.