When temperatures drop, there is one guaranteed way to keep warm outside: fire. Stoking a campfire or backyard pit is one way. Torching an entire viking ship or an effigy of the devil—well, that’s an option, too. Such flaming rituals have been used throughout history and are still an annual fixture in many communities today. Around the world now, there are festivals involving bonfires, torches, candles, and more to mark a special time of year, drive away unwelcome spirits, or greet the new year with a fiery rebirth. Japan, in particular, celebrates with multiple fire festivals, some up to 1,500 years old.

Atlas Obscura invites you to check out some of these particularly photogenic spectacles.

A figure representing the devil burns during the celebration of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in Guatemala City to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. (2021)
A figure representing the devil burns during the celebration of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in Guatemala City to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. (2021) Photo by ORLANDO ESTRADA/AFP via Getty Images
A <em>feuerschuerer</em>, or fire stoker, lights collection of small mountain fires in Pottenstein, Germany. The tradition of lighting dates back more than 110 years, to mark the end of the Catholic Feast of Perpetual Adoration. (2016)
A feuerschuerer, or fire stoker, lights collection of small mountain fires in Pottenstein, Germany. The tradition of lighting dates back more than 110 years, to mark the end of the Catholic Feast of Perpetual Adoration. (2016) Photo by Nicolas Armer/picture alliance via Getty Images
Men in traditional <em>shimekomi</em> loincloths light six giant torches during the Oniyo Fire Festival at Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine in Kurume, Japan. The festival, in prayer for good health, dates back more than 1,600 years. (2016)
Men in traditional shimekomi loincloths light six giant torches during the Oniyo Fire Festival at Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine in Kurume, Japan. The festival, in prayer for good health, dates back more than 1,600 years. (2016) Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
Zoroastrian priests set wood ablaze in celebration of the annual Sadeh festival in a western suburb of Tehran. This ancient Persian festival celebrates the defeat of the forces of darkness, frost, and cold. <em>Sadeh</em> means "one hundred," referring to the days and nights since the end of summer. (2013)
Zoroastrian priests set wood ablaze in celebration of the annual Sadeh festival in a western suburb of Tehran. This ancient Persian festival celebrates the defeat of the forces of darkness, frost, and cold. Sadeh means “one hundred,” referring to the days and nights since the end of summer. (2013) BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images
The Guizar Jarl squad marches ahead of the burning of the galley during Up Helly Aa, a Viking-themed festival that takes place at the end of January at Lerwick, at the north end of Scotland. (2020)
The Guizar Jarl squad marches ahead of the burning of the galley during Up Helly Aa, a Viking-themed festival that takes place at the end of January at Lerwick, at the north end of Scotland. (2020) Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images
The Nozawaonsen Dosojin Fire Festival in Japan, features a battle between men who build a shrine and try to protect it, and the other villagers who try to set it aflame by throwing torches. (2018)
The Nozawaonsen Dosojin Fire Festival in Japan, features a battle between men who build a shrine and try to protect it, and the other villagers who try to set it aflame by throwing torches. (2018) Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images
Residents of Sylt Island, North Frisia, Germany, drive out winter with a massive bonfire, which traditionally also served as a send-off for whaling crews. (2019)
Residents of Sylt Island, North Frisia, Germany, drive out winter with a massive bonfire, which traditionally also served as a send-off for whaling crews. (2019) mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
"Tar Barrel Men" process through the streets of the village of Allendale in Northumberland, England, carrying torches and flaming barrels filled with tar, sawdust, kindling, and paraffin. The festival, which dates back to 1858, celebrates the new year. (2015)
“Tar Barrel Men” process through the streets of the village of Allendale in Northumberland, England, carrying torches and flaming barrels filled with tar, sawdust, kindling, and paraffin. The festival, which dates back to 1858, celebrates the new year. (2015) AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF / AFP / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
At the annual Kushimoto Fire Festival in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, 25 acres of grass are burned off at the southernmost point of Honshu, the country's largest island. (2020)
At the annual Kushimoto Fire Festival in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, 25 acres of grass are burned off at the southernmost point of Honshu, the country’s largest island. (2020) Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images