Stonehaven prepares for Swinging the Fireballs
This week sees preliminary preparations get underway for this year's Swinging the Fireballs festival in Stonehaven, Scotland.
Although this fishing village's unique Hogmanay festival does not take place until the evening of December 31st, the Stonehaven Fireballs Association is making an early start this year.
<UKNE_MPU />In keeping with tradition, locals are invited to a number of Fireball Making Evenings to prepare their individual balls and secure their entry place in the parade, the final list of which was published earlier this month on November 4th.
This year's ball swingers can get started with preparatory events organised at Stonehaven Engineering between 18:30 and 21:00 GMT on November 29th and 30th, and December 8th and 9th.
Stonehaven consistently hosts thousands of visitors for this popular festival, serving as a great and unique family night out to bring in the New Year.
The main event sees approximately 50 people parading up and down the high street, swinging the brightly lit fireballs around their heads.
Fireballs are usually constructed from a range of different materials and will often include, coal, wood and even old jumpers. The only stipulation is that balls are self-contained within a chicken wire shell, each of which is checked and certified for safety before being lit and swung down a crowded street.
Fireball Festival: Where did it all begin?
As far as the origins of this unusual festival are concerned, there are two main pagan explanations, according to the Stonehaven Fireballs Association.
The first suggests that the fireballs were originally conceived as sun-charms, to ensure an appropriate supply of good weather and light for living creatures. The association terms this the solar theory.
The second explanation suggests that the fireballs were intended as a way of cleansing harmful influences, such as witches, demons and monsters. This is referred to as the purification theory.
The oldest existing record of the festival is from the Stonehaven Journal, dated 1908. However, it is widely considered to have been an established custom prior to this publication, in which it is assumed readers already know what the fireballs are.
A Great Night Out
A great atmosphere and awe-inspiring spectacle is pretty much guaranteed at the Hogmanay Swinging the Fireballs Festival, which may appeal to visitors given suggestions that New Year celebrations in the rest of Scotland may be scaled down this year.
Tourists heading along for the celebrations need not dress up in their night-time best for this event either, which may relieve some of the social pressure that can surround a New Year's evening out. In fact, spectators are actually advised to wear warm, second best clothing to the event - with sparks and smoke burns in clothes not uncommon at this event.
However, many visitors wear party clothes underneath their warm wraps in preparation for the big party that proceeds the parade in the main town square, which brings a marvellous end to the evening of fireballs, with plenty of music, dancing, food and drink that will help to make visitors feel like part of the local community.