Up Helly Aa – Shetland Fire Festival in Scotland

The Shetland Fire Festival Up Helly Aa, Europe’s largest fire festival, is a series of 12 fire festivals that take place in many places on the Shetland Islands of Scotland.

The Fire Festival is dedicated to the memory of the Vikings who ruled the Shetland Islands in the 9th century over 1000 years ago for about 500 years. The Shetland Islands became part of Scotland in 1468. The event is held annually on the last Tuesday of January in the city of Lerwick, Scotland.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival. Photo by Vicky Brock, Wunderstock

In the tradition of the Scandinavian Vikings, a spectacular procession takes place to celebrate the end of winter and the return of the sun.

Visitors from all over the world can visit this small town to celebrate this old festival. However, they must be residents of the Shetland Islands for 5 years to join the squad and procession.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival. Photo by Vicky Brock, Wunderstock

On the evening of Up Helly Aa Day, the parade begins with the blazing procession of the Jarl of the Viking Squad, a leading group of 1,000 men wearing Viking dress. The Guizer Jarl proudly stands at the helm of his replica longship, or ‘galley’.

It is kept secret what the head of the festival, “Jarler Gieser – Lord of Lerwick”, will wear, and which character from the Scandinavian sagas he will represent every year.

Shetland fire festival
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival. Photo by Vicky Brock, Wunderstock

The Vikings wear sheepskins, and carry axes, shields, and torches and are accompanied by traditional Up Helly Aa songs performed by a brass band.

The crowd is dressed in costumes from almost sublime to completely ridiculous. Women take part in the festival, organizing and preparing food, and creating a wonderful atmosphere of one of the most striking events of the year.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival. Photo by Vicky Brock, Wunderstock

The event is run exclusively by thousands of volunteers and organizers and includes a series of marches and visits with stops at hospitals and schools.

The culminating even – the parade takes place when a torch-lit procession sets in the fire a replica of a Viking longship galley. The crowd sings “ The Norseman’s Home ” – a stirring requiem, after which the participants and spectators cannot hold back their tears, and then continue to dance all night in the local halls.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival. Photo by Vicky Brock, Wunderstock

All guides and participants visit a dozen halls, where they are invited to private parties, with the exception of a few lounges where tickets are sold to the general public.

Then Lerwick poet J.J. Haldane Burgess, published the novel The Viking Path, in 1894. This was the beginning of the formation of Up Helly Aa in the event known today.

If you did not know about this amazing festival and travel to the Shetland Islands later this year, you can still see many small fire festivals during the months of February to March on the islands.

Travel around the world to be richer and happier

How long were you happy when you bought what you long wanted? Well, maybe a month or even a few years? When the thing became old, you wanted a new one, right? People constantly want something newer, do not value old things and try to get rid of them.

Many bloggers write about traveling and how it influenced their lives. But everyone has their own experience. So, let’s talk about the important and really life-changing things that we get when we travel to other places.

Travel around the world to be richer and happier
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Culture

When you travel you are driven by your natural curiosity and the novelty of a destination. You want to learn about new cultures and see new places, meet new people. If you are curious and smart enough, you will learn a few basic phrases to great local people and keep up a simple conversation. When you learn new things you get more life experience, therefore, become richer.

Knowledge

The more you travel to new places, the more you learn about the life and experience of other people. Traveling will expand your consciousness and make you more open-minded. Life experience while traveling is much more intense than in your familiar place. You cannot learn this from someone else’s experience, but only from your own life experience. Life will be your teacher.

Friends for Life

When you travel, you meet people like you who travel and experience new things in their life. You can experience quite exciting things and hardships while traveling that create lasting friendships and memories. If you make friends with people from different countries, you will discover new cultures and languages. This will make you realize that people have a lot in common regardless of their cultural differences and languages.

New You

Travel means getting out of your comfort zone. You also challenge yourself and learn a lot about new things and yourself. Getting to know new places can often be accompanied by discomfort and challenges. Thus, your fears will fade away and you may develop new skills and habits. You will become more persistent and confident. You will become a new person because you will know your values after being away from home for a long time.

Travel around the world to be richer and happier
Photo by The World Hopper from Pexels

Spirituality

You will have more knowledge and become less self-centered, and a more compassionate person. You may want to volunteer to help other people or want to go on a spiritual journey somewhere to learn wisdom. It can be a trip to a country with rich traditions for the study of yoga and meditation, or some ancient teaching. These can be unforgettable places like India or others.

Happiness is a New Success

Many people start realizing that success does not always mean happiness. Nowadays they say that being happy means being successful. A well-traveled person is smart and self-confident; people can feel their positive attitude. Such a person is an interesting communicator and listener and can influence other people and their personal growth.

You are Richer

Traveling will make you rich with life experience. And this is not only figurative. Given everything that was mentioned above, while traveling, you have invested a lot in your education at the University of Life, in learning new skills and habits, as well as in friendship and personal growth. Now you can apply all the knowledge to develop your career in any field that you want. After all, it is up to you – you can do it!

What does Science Say about Happiness?

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University, has been studying the relationship between happiness and money for 20 years. Dr. Gilovich and his colleagues found that people feel more satisfied with the purchase of experimental rather than material things.

Interestingly, people anticipating to purchase experience has been more satisfied than those of waiting to buy material things.

“Our research is also important to society because it suggests that overall well-being can be advanced by providing an infrastructure that affords experiences – such as parks, trails, beaches – as much as it does material consumption,” says Gilovich.

Travel around the world to be richer and happier
Photo by Mike Andrei from Pexels

Experiences are more satisfying than material things

There are several possible explanations for why experiences make us happier and last longer or even a lifetime than buying material things.

The psychological explanation is that material things are separated from us, while experiences are part of our lives, and therefore our memories of them can last a long time. When people buy material things, they tend to compare them with something better, and after a while, they feel indifferent or dissatisfied.

From a biochemical point of view, our body produces hormones of happiness when we experience pleasure and every time we remember our memories of things based on experience. When you travel, your memories can last a lifetime and make you feel happy every time you remember them.

Happiness is Not About Money

When you travel to your desired destination you enjoy the place and your experiences will keep you happy no matter how good it was for someone else. This is particularly because your perception of your experiences belongs to you alone. Someone may have a better hotel and other services but it doesn’t mean that their experiences are better than yours. Other studies have shown that people from poor countries enjoy simple things even more that people from wealthy countries.

“Your experiences are inherently less comparative, they’re less subject to and less undermined by invidious social comparisons,” said Gilovich. When people buy material things they tend to compare them with something better and feel dissatisfied after a while.

Final Thoughts

When we travel we create new neural pathways in our brain. These are activities that make us feel good and are associated with taking risk, survival, and pleasure. Thus, traveling is a natural and real way to happiness and personal growth.

Do you have your own story that you experienced while traveling? It will be great if you share this in the comments below. You can also submit your story for publication on our blog. Cheers!

Music is universal in all cultures of the world

Music has long been called the universal language of humankind. New research supports the finding that music all around the globe shares universal features, despite many differences.

The concept of cultural universality allows defining culture in terms of what is intrinsic to it in human culture. While some of the features are specific for each culture, others are distributed across the cultures.

The study of ethnic music can be therefor reviewed from their socio-cultural traditions as well as from the universal perspective.

Human Music is Universal

Samuel Mehr and colleagues address this challenge by merging modern data science with musical recordings and ethnographic records from world cultures to map out the universals and variations in human song (vocal music).

Mehr et al. built a discography of audio recordings accompanied with detailed descriptions of around 5000 detailed descriptions of songs and their performances in 60 human societies from 315 cultures.

They created another database to analyze recordings taken of four types of music from 30 different regions, which included dance songs, healing songs, love songs, and lullabies.

The results of the study underscore the universality of music, suggesting humans might have an innate “grammar” for music.

Music is one of the aspects of human cognition

Cognitive biologists Tecumseh Fitch and Tudor Popescu of the University of Vienna suggest that human musicality unites all cultures across the planet.

They comment on the implications: “Human musicality fundamentally rests on a small number of fixed pillars: hard-coded predispositions, afforded to us by the ancient physiological infrastructure of our shared biology. These ‘musical pillars’ are then ‘seasoned’ with the specifics of every individual culture, giving rise to the beautiful kaleidoscopic assortment that we find in world music,” Tudor Popescu explains.

The new research suggests that human musicality is one of these shared aspects of human cognition. The results also show there is more variation in musical context within cultures than between them.