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In pictures: Up Helly Aa

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image copyrightAFP
image captionMembers of the Jarl Squad have been taking part in the annual Up Helly Aa Viking fire festival on the Shetland Isles
image copyrightAFP
image captionThe celebrations, hailed as Europe's largest fire festival, involve locals of all ages stepping into the role of "guizers"
image copyrightPA
image captionOriginating in the 1880s, the Up Helly Aa tradition celebrates Shetland's Norse heritage, which dates back centuries
image copyrightPA
image captionAbout 900 guizers, complete with flaming torches, drag a Viking galley through the streets of Lerwick
image copyrightAP
image captionHundreds of flaming torches are thrown onto the Viking galley at the spectacular culmination of the night
image copyrightPA
image captionUp Helly Aa is said to be descended from the ancient festival of Yule, which the Vikings held to celebrate the rebirth of the sun
image copyrightPA
image captionThe festival attracts thousands of spectators to the islands, many travelling from around the globe to be part of the night
image copyrightPA
image captionThe cold night sky is lit up in apocalyptic style as the Jarl Squad shower the galley with burning torches
image copyrightPA
image captionThe fire festival is followed by a public holiday to allow islanders to recover from the night's celebrations

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