Stonehaven is this super cute little town about 15 miles south of Aberdeen on the coast. And since (first documented) 1908 Stonehaven has been doing their Fireball Festival on New Year’s Eve. We definitely wanted to go see this and it was one of the main reasons we flew back to the UK before NYE.
We started the evening having a casual potluck dinner with friends and then drove down to Stonehaven. We didn’t get there until about 11:30, so admittedly, our spots to watch weren’t the best. But the evening starts with everyone doing a countdown to midnight (hurrah) and then the “swingers” coming in and lighting their balls from a big sort of firepit (it looked like). They walk up and down the street swinging their fireballs and eventually walk out into the harbor (low tide) and throw their balls into the sea.
You can learn all about the fireballs here: http://stonehavenfireballs.co.uk/
My favorite tidbit taken from that website:
Also a word of advice, never wear your best clothes to the fireballs as there will be sparks flying along with smoke and even Whisky! Don’t be surprised if you end up with little burn holes in your clothes, this is normal, try swinging the things!
We actually had a super mild night- I was sweating in a sweater and my Canada Goose. I hadn’t read about sparks flying…but due to our un-prime spots, our entire group remained burn free. Always good. After the fireballs are launched into the water, there is a pretty good firework show.
I kind of am intrigued how one becomes a fireball swinger. Because, what would make my life in Scotland more memorable than being a fireball swinger before I leave?! Alas, it seems it’s a little bit of a secret society/invite only. And I don’t think they want my expat ass flinging fireballs over my head with my dislocating shoulders. A running blogger (that lives in Stonehaven) that I follow actually got invited to swing the fireballs last year and she does a great recap with wonderful photos here.
More than anything I was so impressed with how friendly and peaceful everything was. I mean, the Scottish do have a reputation for drinking, but more than that- if you had this event in Chicago on NYE…there were be arrests, fights, probably a stabbing or two. Everyone was in such a great mood! Maybe there is a correlation between the peacefulness of an event with the amount of men in skirts? Because of course- men were in kilts everywhere! That never doesn’t make me happy. We even went to the event with our friend Dough, a real Scotsman, wearing his “casual” denim kilt. Oh the joy in my heart.
Here’s a video from the association of the main parade this year:
And you can click below for my less than stellar videos of the tossing of the fireballs and the Scottish drumline getting down after the festivities were over.