Given that the good people of Scotland tend to celebrate by drinking whiskey, tossing giant logs and eating a sheep's heart, liver and lungs wrapped in its own stomach, it might come as little surprise that those crazy Bravehearts know how to throw one hell of a shindig. While some holidays are observed with eating, and others with gifts, Up Helly Aa, an annual festival celebrated all throughout Shetland, is celebrated in one simple way: fire.
Think of how much more meaningful Christmas would be if everything was on fire.
In each town in the region, large groups of sweaty, presumably drunken Scotsmen gather together and play Viking for a day, swearing their allegiance to their squad's "Guizer Jarl," a grand marshal of sorts. Participants wear badass armor, carry Viking weapons and even design unique coats-of-arms to honor their leader.
They stumble down streets with gasoline-soaked torches belting out slurred Norse anthems about Thor or the Midgard Serpent or some shit, as the procession symbolically brings the replica boat toward the mythic afterlife of Valhalla, because ... why the hell not? It's better than staying home on a Tuesday night.
Like a Renaissance fair, but not embarrassing to be seen at.
Upon arriving at the end of the parade route, they wind that thing down in the style any self-respecting Viking would: burning the ship to the motherfucking ground.
And putting it out with a long, beer-fueled, unified piss.
The especially odd thing is that even though this booze-fueled burn-ward-waiting-to-happen march is all about Vikings, Up Helly Aa isn't actually an ancient Norse holiday at all. Its origin dates back only to the late 1800s, and it's widely believed the holiday was created as an excuse for bored soldiers to party and riot after coming home from the Napoleonic Wars. So remember, the next time you and your buddies have an extra-wild costume party, you very well could be starting a tradition that will carry on for centuries.
And to our hard-partying forefathers, we simply say, "Thank you."
When not getting Purim drunk, Alexander L. Hoffman writes comedy for Tranya! Go ahead and contact him via e-mail or Twitter.
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