As we enter December thoughts turn of course to Christmas and of course New Year celebrations.
Over the years fireworks have increased in popularity of course much to our delight but using fire and fireworks is not a new phenomena as going back to pre-Christian times in some areas of the UK. You may have seen a number of ‘Fireball’ or ‘Fire Festivals’ mentioned in the news and online which follow the ancient pagan ritual of using fire to drive away the old spirits with the flames to enable the spirits of the New Year to prosper.
One such event is the Stonehaven Fireballs festival which has been held for more than 150 years on New Years Eve. Planning starts early in the year as they have a team of swinging ball makers. The balls are essentially metal mesh cages packed with pieces of old cloth, cardboard, newspaper and coal briquettes which once made will be dipped in paraffin to make it stay alight. They use wire to essentially ‘stitch’ the double layer of chicken wire to the Fireball and they add a handle on to enable them to swing the fireball.
The event starts at 11 with music and merriment and on the very stroke of midnight, the first of the bagpipes will start the parade followed by the first of the Fireball swingers. The streets are lined with up to 10,000 visitors all the way along the High Street to the Harbour. Visitors from around the World of course converge on Scotland for the traditional Hogmanay celebrations. They continue to do the circuit for as long as their strength will permit but at around 12.25 the last of the fireballs is launched into the cold water of the Harbour slipway. As the smoke clears, beautiful fireworks will fill the skies over Stonehaven in a show which captivates the essence of celebration of the end of the old year and the welcoming of the new one!
There are lots of pagan ‘Fire’ events up and down the Country and whilst the Stonehaven one is in Aberdeenshire, there is a similar event in East Yorkshire on the coast at Flamborough.
The Flamborough Fire Festival has a ‘Viking Theme’ thanks to its links to the invasion by the Danes of what was South Northumbria (Yorkshire) in 866 AD.
The festival is free once again and includes a parade which starts in the middle of the village and visitors and spectators will watch as a Viking Longship is pulled through the town by Viking Warriors. Everyone follows the torchlit parade to the village green where they will be treated to a stunning firework display courtesy of The Fireworkers of Driffield.
So, if you have a fire event nearby and want to both get into the spirit of the community as well as keeping alive some of the oldest of traditions in Britain, join in.