“I am the god of hell fire!” screamed Arthur Brown in 1968, in his horned flaming helmet. We’re pretty sure you’ll hear his song “Fire!” at several of the fire festivals for pyromaniacs we have listed below. It’s only right and natural.
We’ve listed them in chronological order for you because we’re helpful like that.
Up Helly Aa – The Shetlands, Scotland – 27 January 2015
A tradition that started in the late 19th century, Up Helly Aa is a pyromaniac procession marking mid-winter that culminates in the burning of a Viking longboat.
Events take place in around ten locations around the Shetland Islands, but the main event is in Lerwick. If you’re looking for something on the Scottish mainland, the smaller Burning of the Clavie takes places in Burghead on January 11th each year.
Telluride Fire Festival – Telluride, Colorado – 15-19 January 2015
The mountain town of Telluride is popular with skiers in winter, and in the middle of all the snowy fun is a touch of fire. The Telluride Fire Festival is three days of free flaming fun featuring workshops, art installations and performances from experienced pyromaniacs.
Oniyo – Kurume City, Fukuoka, Japan – 7 January 2015
The Daizenji Tamatare-gu Shrine hosts this local fire festival that invariably sees loads of people carrying huge flaming torches.
It’s all for the best though as the ashes are supposed to help ward off illnesses during the coming year. Oniyo has been going for around 1,400 years so it must be working.
The Dosojin Fire Festival – Nozawa-Onsen, Nagano, Japan – 15 January 2015
This fire festival held in Nozawa Onsen is based around large groups of 25 and 42-year-old men getting drunk on sake and throwing burning things at each other.
It sounds a bit crazy, and most attendees would probably agree with you. Either way, this wintry mountain town is popular all year round due to its ski resorts and hot springs.
Jeju Field Burning Festival – Jeju, South Korea – 8-10 March 2015
Burning a mountain is every pyromaniac’s dream, and it comes true each year in Jeju, the volcanic island off the South Korean mainland.
It all helps the crops apparently, but is basically an excuse for a good knees-up in an accurate simulation of the Apocalypse.
Sagicho Matsuri – Omi Hachiman, Kyoto, Japan – 22 March 2015
Much like the other Japanese fire festivals in our list, Sagicho Matsuri involves lighting massive torches.
The difference with this larger festival is that local participants are supposed to spend days, sometimes months, to build detailed trinkets and idols out of food and any other material that might come to hand.
These are all insensitively burned to a cinder in a ceremony known as kenka.
Las Fallas – Valencia, Spain – 15-19 March 2015
The ever popular Las Fallas in Valencia starts with a pretty carnival of beautiful and ornate floats. As proceedings continue and night falls, all the elaborate displays and creations are ignited, much to the delight of the baying pyromaniac audience.
Eventually fire-fighters always have to step in to stop things getting out of hand.
FLAME – Wesminter, South Carolina – mid-April 2015
FLAME stands for Flow Arts Movement Exchange, but as the acronym implies, the flow arts concentrated on here are those involving chucking fire around.
Beltane Fire Festival – Edinburgh, Scotland – 30 April-2 May 2015
Scotland’s capital has been hosting this very popular fire extravaganza since 1988 when some community-minded pyromaniacs decided to reimagine the spirit of the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane.
Fahrenheit Fire & Flow Arts Festival – Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania – 29-31 May 2015
Fahrenheit is aimed at people wanting to learn fire-based flow arts, so come along if you want to improve your poi.
Kiev Fire Festival – Kiev, Ukraine – mid-June 2015
The capital of Ukraine’s annual celebration of burning things has been delighting audiences every year since 2007. There is a large one-day performance for the public, which is part of a three-day camp for the hardcore flame purists.
Waterfire – Sharon, Pennsylvania – 18 July, 22 August and 26 September 2015
Waterfire is an unusual mix of, as the name suggests, water and fire that’s held in a few select places including Sharon.
The show revolves around a series of fireballs that float softly down a river while music plays in the background. Something for both art and arson fans then.
Yoshida Fire Festival – Mount Fuji, Japan – 26-27 August 2015
Known in Japan as Yoshidanohimatsuri, this fire festival involves a long procession of burning torches in a busy modern town. With Fuji as a backdrop, the landscapes for this fire fest are blazingly good.
Phoenix Convention – Germany – 27-30 Aug 2015
Burning Man – Black Rock Desert, Nevada – late August 2015
The notorious hippyfest Burning Man lives up to its name with the immolation of a huge effigy built especially for the festival. There isn’t much else to do in the middle of the Black Rock Desert, so plenty of other art displays seem to end up involving fire too.
Bolas de Fuego – Nejapa, El Salvador – 31 August 2015
Throwing things at other people is always fun, and that seems to be true even when fire is involved. Head to Nejapa for the last day of August if you want to see this for yourself.
Chicago Fire Festival – Chicago, Illinois – Early October 2015
We’re not entirely sure this is happening yet as the inaugural event only recently happened and there were some teething problems.
But 30,000 people did turn up to watch the flaming boats floating down the Chicago River and with that much interest and a few lessons learned this year, we reckon there’ll be more to come of this extravaganza that was intended to become an annual event.
Pit Fire Festival – Cochise College, Douglas, Arizona – early October 2015
Lastly, something a bit different compared to all the destruction of our other entries. The Pit Fire Festival is all about firing thousands of ceramics in a massive trench that acts as a kiln.
The hellish effect is still luminous and fiery, but constructive rather than destructive, and fittingly the rest of the festival concentrates on more traditional performance arts.
Flow Down 2015 – Bloomingdale, Indiana – October 2015
Flow Down Fest is something for people who love Mother Nature just as much as they love chucking fire around. Instructors in flow arts will show participants how to wield fireballs like a loon in utmost safety.
Kurama Fire Festival – Kyoto, Japan – 22 October 2015
This mountain town enjoys a good burn every October with massive torches engulfed in flames to honour a local shrine. Just 30 minutes by train from downtown Kyoto means the event is often full of onlookers.
Phoenixville Firebird Festival, PA – December 2015
Phoenixville, northwest of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, has been sticking true to its name for over a decade by burning a huge wooden effigy of a bird.
The late afternoon leading up to the pyre features hundreds of fire-jugglers and other performers in a grand procession along the town’s streets.
This year’s event is accepting donations through Indiegogo to make it even better. You can also find the Firebird festival on Facebook.
(Feature image: Mike Warot)