About Up Helly Aa

Up Helly Aa is a tradition that originated in the 1880s. Since then the festival has been an annual occurrence in the Shetland calendar. The festival is cancelled by exception, the following dates record when and why:

  • 1901 Death of Queen Victoria
  • 1914 to 1919 First World War
  • 1940 to 1948 Second World War
  • 2021 to 2022 Covid-19 Pandemic

There have also been postponements as listed below:

  • 1900 2 weeks due to influenza
  • 1936 2 weeks due to death of George V
  • 1965 1 week due to the death of Winston Churchill

Up Helly Aa is many things to many people, throughout the day there are experiences a plenty to be had by all from the celebration of our history, the sight of the Guizer Jarl and the Jarl Squad marching through the town followed by their galley to the evening party atmosphere in the halls.

The following pages provide an insight into the various aspects of the day and night: