THE I Hear Dee language project was formed to protect and promote the Shaetlan language, a variant of Scots native to the archipelago. The project has launched world-leading initiatives, including a “game-changing” Shaetlan Language Plan alongside the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Shetland board.

Here, the group explains – in Shaetlan – the Up Helly Aa tradition (scroll down for the English translation)...

Hit's da Up Helly Aa saison o fire festivals.

Da festival's røts gings back ti' da end o da Napoleonic Waars, at endit in November 1815, whin young Shetland men wan haem. Dey wir seen winderfil things awa fae haem an decidit tae hae a spree trowe da bleak Yül in Lerwick.

Da onkerry cam tae be maed mair an mair inventive. Bi da 1840s da young men wir startit tae mak bombs wi dynamite. Dan dey startit hoidin demsels bi guizin an draggin barrels o tar dey wir set lowe til trowe Lerwick. Dis maed a aafil maess an wis deingerous, so eventually da young men startit tae rig demsels up in costumes, caa demsels guizers an caa dir sprees Up Helly Aa.

READ MORE: Shetland prepares for largest Up Helly Aa with women to participate for first time

Da first Up Helly Aa torch procession wis held athin 1881. In 1889 da first gelley wis brunt. In 1905 Haldane Burgess wrat da Up Helly Aa sang.

Da expression Up Helly Aa is aalder an comes fae da Scots Uphaliday, at markit da Feast o da Epiphany an da end o Christmas apø da 6t January. Da first attestation is fae 1478: vphalyday.

Da Shetland Up Helly Aa fire festivals irna a ancient Viking festival, but reidder a blend o history an reinterpretation at's maed a unique Shetland tradeetion at embodies da unique identity o Shetland.

Read mair aboot da origins o Up Helly Aa an its sang here:

Brian Smith (2021) "Up Helly Aa has a most interesting history"

Mark Smith (2022) "Origins of the Up Helly Aa Song"


It's the Up Helly Aa season of fire festivals. The origin of the festivals started growing after the Napoleonic Wars, which ended in November 1815, when young Shetland men returned home. They had seen amazing things abroad and decided to liven up the bleak winter in Lerwick.

The hullabaloo became more and more inventive. By the 1840s the young men had started to make bombs with dynamite. Then they started to disguise themselves and drag barrels of burning tar through Lerwick. This was dirty and dangerous, so eventually the young men started to dress up in costumes, call themselves guizers and call their celebrations Up Helly Aa.

The National: Up Helly Aa Viking festival

The first Up Helly Aa torch procession was held in 1881. In 1889 the first galley was burned. In 1905 Haldane Burgess wrote the Up Helly Aa song.

The expression Up Helly Aa is older and comes from Scots Uphaliday, which marked the Feast of the Epiphany and end of Christmas on 6 January. The first attestation is from 1478: vphalyday.

The Shetland Up Helly Aa fire festivals are not an ancient Viking festival, but rather a blend of history and reinterpretation which has created a unique Shetland tradition that embodies the unique identity of Shetland.

Read more about the origins of Up Helly Aa and its song here:

Brian Smith (2021) "Up Helly Aa has a most interesting history"

Mark Smith (2022) "Origins of the Up Helly Aa Song"