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Burning of the Clavie BACK ON again in 2022 after Covid rules relaxed

Liquid is poured over the burning Clavie to fan the flames.
Clavie night in Burghead is a spectacle dating back centuries. Photo: Jason Hedges/DCT Media

The ancient tradition of the Burning of the Clavie in Burghead will take place this year after all – just hours after Covid restrictions are eased.

Clavie Crew organisers were forced to cancel the special event in the Moray village when government rules limited outdoor gatherings to 500.

It was only the second time the tradition of burning of a wooden barrel following a street procession had been cancelled since the Second World War – the other being 2021.

However, after the Scottish Government confirmed the rules on outdoor gatherings would be relaxed from Monday, it has been confirmed the annual burning will go ahead.

Silhouetted figures stand around the burning Clavie.
The crew supervises the Clavie in 2018. Photo: Jason Hedges/DCT Media

Clavie King Dan Ralph said: “There’s been a huge amount of stress and anxiety in the last week or so about whether it’s on or not.

“There’s a huge sense of relief in the crew we can do it.

“This will be a very special Clavie, we’re maintaining this ancient tradition, we want to maintain this ancient tradition, and we’ll soon forget it’s six days late.”

Clavie Crew organisers have discouraged people from Burghead from attending this year to allow the event to pass safely and with social distancing for village residents.

Small Clavie celebrations held for children

Tradition dictates that the Burning of the Clavie in Burghead takes place on January 11, except when it falls on a Sunday and it is held a day earlier.

The date coincides with what was the New Year on the ancient Julian calendar used by Romans.

When Scotland moved to the current calendar in the 18th century, defiant Brochers insisted on having their fire festival on the original date.

Small events were still held on January 11 this year to ensure youngsters could still enjoy the Clavie atmosphere on the big night in 2022.

Mr Ralph said: “To keep the tradition alive, we had a small Clavie for the bairns. Some of the crew members threw tar on it.”

What are the origins of Clavie night in Burghead?

The exact origins of Clavie night in Burghead are not known due to it being celebrated longer than living memory.

Barrel burning and fire festivals were once common in the north-east with Stonehaven continuing to turn the heat up on Hogmanay.

The mile-long peninsula Burghead now stands upon was once the site of a massive Pictish fort, three times the size of any other known about in Scotland.

Large crowds follow the Clavie through the streets of Burghead.
Large crowds traditionally follow the Clavie through the streets of Burghead. Photo: DCT Media

It is believed the tradition may stretch back to the days of the settlement, which has ruins dating back to the late 3rd century.

Carrying the flames through streets in the town is also said to scare off demons while also coming as the nights start to become visibly shorter again.

Collecting charred wooden staves that have fallen from the Clavie is believed to bring good luck for the coming year.

What is for certain is that while the rest of Scotland celebrates its big night on Hogmanay, Burghead defiantly continues to bring in the bells on Clavie night on January 11.

Breaking from tradition for one year, this year’s Burning of the Clavie will take place at 6pm on Monday.

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