The Sparkling Stonehaven Fireball Festival

The residents of the pretty sea-side town of Stonehaven in Scotland are no doubt looking forward to the Stonehaven Fireball Festival which is held on the 31st of December each year. This spectacular sight of people proceeding along High Street swinging balls of fire in the dark is worth seeing. But what is the event all about?

The tradition is that the swinging of fireballs wards off the darkness of winter and welcomes the new year. Moments before the old Town House bell chimes midnight, the music of a pipe band is heard. This is the signal for fireballs to be lit and fireball swingers emerge from the street leading to the harbor in a quest to help speed the old year and its troubles on its way and to herald in the new year filled with the promise of good things.

Crowds gather together in the cold mid-winter night to enjoy the sight of these dexterous fireball swingers and to join in the festival spirit. Although the fireball swingers only light up just before midnight, spectators are advised to be in the area by about 11:30 to hear the pipe band and find a good viewing point. The best places reportedly being at the lighting up area at Keith place and at the split in the road between King Street and High Street. The grand finale of the procession is when the fireballs are tossed into the sea at the harbor, after which there is a big party at the square and at many other venues in the town.

Fireballs are made of an assortment of materials, such as coal, wood, old clothes, dry sticks, cardboard and fir cones all soaked in paraffin. Each fireball swinger has their own preference as to what goes into their fireball, but all use chicken wire to make the outer frame with the handle made from sturdy wire. All fireballs are quality checked prior to the ceremony for safety purposes. If spectators intend getting close to the fireball swingers it is a good idea to wear something old over their party clothes as the sparks tend to fly.

If you travel to Scotland in December, include Stonehaven in your itinerary and join in the Stonehaven Fireball Festival for an unforgettable experience.