Up-helly-aa: custom, culture, and community in Shetland

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Manchester University Press, 1998 - History - 219 pages
Up-Helly-AA is Europe's largest and most spectacular winter fire festival. In the biting Arctic wind on the last Tuesday of every January, a "Guizer Jarl" leads one thousand men in guising costumes with flaming torches through the streets of Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Isles, accompanying a Viking galley to its ceremonial burning. This is the first full study of the historical origins and contemporary significance of Up-Helly-AA. It traces the formation of Yule celebrations in the 1840s into the civic ritual constructed in the 1880s and 1890s by Shetland nationalists, folk revivalists, labour activists, teetotallers and municipal authorities. In the twentieth century, the renamed "Up-Helly-AA" became the principal community event in the Shetlands, making complex statements about gender, class, "nation," rebelliousness and respectability.

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The festival of Uphellyaa in the 1990s
Understanding custom
The historians

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About the author (1998)

Callum Brown is professor of religious and cultural history at the University of Dundee. In 2001, he wrote a controversial study called "The Death of Christian Britain" that argued that Britainhad secularised as a result of sexual liberation and feminism in the 1960s. That book is now studied by historians and theologians around Europe. In "Religion and Society in Twentieth Century Britain," Brown provides a rounded study of the place of faith and religious adherence in the lives of the British people, giving the first complete account of religion's place in the nation's culture and society.

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