Stone Henge Winter Solstice
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STONE HENGE WINTER SOLSTICE

Marking the passage of time was important to many ancient cultures. For the people of Stonehenge who were farmers, growing crops and tending herds of animals, knowing when the seasons were changing was important. Winter might have been a time of fear as the days grew shorter and colder. People must have longed for the return of light and warmth. Marking this yearly cycle may have been one of the reasons that Neolithic people constructed Stonehenge – a monument aligned to the movements of the sun.

The stones were shaped and set up to frame at least two important events in the annual solar cycle – the midwinter sunset at the winter solstice and the midsummer sunrise at the summer solstice.

At the summer solstice, around 21 June, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone and its first rays shine into the heart of Stonehenge. Although the tallest trilithon at the monument is no longer standing, the sun would have set between the narrow gap of these uprights during the winter solstice.
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Marking the passage of time was important to many ancient cultures. For the people of Stonehenge who were farmers, growing crops and tending herds of animals, knowing when the seasons were changing was important. Winter might have been a time of fear as the days grew shorter and colder. People must have longed for the return of light and warmth. Marking this yearly cycle may have been one of the reasons that Neolithic people constructed Stonehenge – a monument aligned to the movements of the sun.

The stones were shaped and set up to frame at least two important events in the annual solar cycle – the midwinter sunset at the winter solstice and the midsummer sunrise at the summer solstice.

At the summer solstice, around 21 June, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone and its first rays shine into the heart of Stonehenge. Although the tallest trilithon at the monument is no longer standing, the sun would have set between the narrow gap of these uprights during the winter solstice.
An unremarkable A-road on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire leads you to this world-famous ring of prehistoric standing stones. Stonehenge is at the heart of a 6,500 acre World Heritage Site and is thought to have been constructed between 3,000BC and 2,000BC. Ancient cultures built such structures to align with the sun at specific times, some performing sacred rituals at sunset each day to ensure its return the next day.

Prehistoric winter solstice customs hint at some of our own Christmas traditions, including yule logs and shaman who returned with gifts for the people.

Nowadays, 21st century druids, pagans, revellers and the generally curious gather at Stonehenge during the early hours of either 21 or 22 December every year (the actual shortest day will depend on the position of the sun). Around 1,500 visitors take part or witness ceremonies led by the senior druid, Pagan celebrations and the sun rising above those awe-inspiring slabs.
The stones of Stonehenge have silently marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years.

They were shaped and set up to frame at least two important events in the annual solar cycle. 

One is the midsummer sunrise at the summer solstice – the other is the midwinter sunset at the winter solstice.

In Newgrange, Co Meath, during sunrise on the shortest day of the year, direct sunlight can enter the monument for 17 minutes.

Not through the doorway, but through the specially contrived small opening above the entrance known as the “roof box” where it illuminates its chamber.
The shortest day of the year is here and as some mourn the darkness, others mark the winter solstice as a time for celebration because it signals a bright future.

An annual occurrence, the winter solstice marks the moment when the earth's tilt away from the sun is at a maximum, signaling the first day of winter. This year, the Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice will occur on Saturday night or Sunday morning, depending on the location, according to the National Weather Service.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, although the exact number of daylight hours depends on individual locations. While some dread the lengthy darkness, others celebrate the winter solstice as a time of hope because after the darkness, comes light as days get gradually longer.
Crowds have gathered at Stonehenge to mark the winter solstice and witness the sunrise after the longest night of the year.

Druids and dancers were among the crowds celebrating the occasion despite the cold – with temperatures barely reaching 6C (42.8F) when the sun rose at 8.05am.

One man was seen drinking mead from an animal horn inside the stone circle while others banged on drums and sang.

Michael DeAngelo, who was visiting the historic Wiltshire site from New Jersey, told PA Media: “I don’t think anything made me connect more with my humanness than seeing that. And the planet and mankind in general.”

The solstice marks the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun, and begins the gradual lengthening of days and shortening of nights.
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