Fire-starters, cross-dressers, and old-fashioned pillagers -- tonight's your night. More than a thousand Scotsmen, dressed as Vikings, are planning to torch the hell out of things at the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick. Rather than marking the end of the yule season by spending gift cards at Target, the Scots dress up as seafaring conquerers, march through the town, and light fire to a wooden boat -- as they have since the 1880s.
The evening's main spectacle, the galley (or Viking longship), boasts excellent craftsmanship and, like the fest's many participants, has enviable facial hair (beards are optional, but highly encouraged).
Following the procession and ritual torching of the galley, Lerwick gets a little crazy as "squads" of costumed firebugs perform dances, sing songs, and drink mead (I guess?).
The more mead consumed, the easier to stop, drop, and roll.
As for the cross-dressing? Not really sure how that works into Norse tradition. Kilts are, perhaps, a gateway garment?
Viking horns, braids -- and a bedazzled, tagged cannon... Scots are (up) hell(y a)a strange.
Chloe Pantazi is an editorial assistant on Thrillist's travel team. She's visited Scotland many times, and has nothing against the Scots -- except for a very rational fear of fire. Follow her on Twitter at @ChloePantazi.