Stonehaven Fireball Festival

"The Fireballs" – as the event is known locally - takes place once a year in Stonehaven down the East coast from Aberdeen and is the main feature of the town’s Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve, 31 December) celebrations. Around fifty participants parade up and down the High Street of the Old Town from the Mercat Cross near the harbour to the Cannon at the west end, swinging fireballs around their heads watched by a mixture of locals and, nowadays, people visiting the town specially to witness the event. The original Fireball swingers were men from the fishing community but, as their numbers have declined (post WWII), the mantle has been taken up by other beefy lads (and occasional, and slightly less beefy, Lassies?) from the town. Swingers all have their own way of making their fireballs but they are generally constructed from chicken wire stuffed with flammable items such as old clothes, wood, coal, and, apparently, sometimes fir cones. The whole thing is dowsed with paraffin, but all are safety checked before the event. Fire festivals or processions and rituals with flaming torches have a long history throughout Europe where they are thought to pre-date the spread of Christianity. Pagan fire customs are believed to have been carried out for one of two reasons: to ensure sunshine for crops and for ‘life’ itself, or as purification ceremonies warding off evil beings and harmful influences.

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