At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, sixty kilt-wearing participants light up the high street of this North Sea fishing port, whirling 16-pound flaming balls, attached to five foot long wire ropes, over and around their heads. The marchers, accompanied by pipers and drummers, make their way through the center of town from the Market Cross to the harbor, where they throw their flaming balls into the sea.
The Stonehaven Fireball Festival arose from a 19th century fishermen’s festival but it is likely that the use of purifying flame to word off evil spirits and to endow the fishing fleet with luck has pre-Christian origins.
At one time, only those born in the burgh of Stonehaven could participate. In the 1960s when the festival began to decline the rules were changed and, today, anyone can take part. Annually, at least 12,000 people fill the town to watch the spectacle.
For those who have ever complained that New Year’s celebrations were lacking giant burning orbs on ropes being flung into the sea, there’s Stonehaven Fireball Festival. Each year the Scottish town of Stonehaven lights up the first minutes of the New Year with a procession guaranteed to burn its way into the memories of all lucky enough to witness it. Originally an ancient pagan ritual intended to ward off evil spirits, fireball swinging now succeeds in attracting visitors in high spirits. Part of the Stonehaven’s Hogmanay celebrations held every New Year’s Eve, up to one hundred marchers make their way through the town towards the sea, whirling and spinning fireballs overhead like Lucifer’s tetherball, before heaving their flaming globes into the murky depths at the water’s edge.
Fancy spending New Year’s Eve in Scotland? Check into the Thistle Aberdeen Altens, before travelling to the Historic coastal town of Stonehaven to witness the spectacular annual Fireball.