Burning the Clavie, Burghead

The Burning of the Clavie, Burghead, in Moray, Scotland © Skatedog

More proof of national pyromania in Scotland, as if any were needed.

Despite being denounced by 18th-century authorities as ‘an abominable heathenish practice,’ the ancient Burning the Clavie tradition of Burghead, Scotland, is still going strong.

It takes place annually on January 11 (formerly Hogmany, which took place on this date until the calendar changed in the 1750s). Now they celebrate New Year twice, on the 1st January and the 11th too.

The clavie is an iron-hooped whisky barrel packed with wood and tar, and blackened with creosote. It’s set ablaze and paraded around the streets by the ‘Clavie King’ and some burly fishermen onto the ancient fort ramparts of Doorie Hill, where it burns to pieces on a special altar and falls down the hill. Its embers are thought to bring good luck, so eager townsfolk pounce on them before they’ve even cooled.

The Burning of the Clavie joins many other fabulously foolhardy fire festivals in England and Scotland.

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