Stonehenge revellers celebrate the first sunrise after Winter Solstice

Dawn again! Stonehenge revellers celebrate the first sunrise after Winter Solstice… 24 hours after others toasted the morning on the shortest day of the year

  • Actual moment of solstice was at 3.59pm yesterday but pagans and druids gathered this morning for sunrise
  • Today is the official shortest day of the year with sunlight for just five hours and 49 minutes in Shetland 
  • Photographs show hundreds of people crowding around the Stonehenge monument as the sun rose at 8.10am
  • Winter solstice juxtaposed by the summer solstice which typically falls on June 21 and marks the longest day

Stonehenge revellers have celebrated the first sunrise after Winter Solstice 24 hours after others toasted the new morning on the shortest day of the year.

While the actual moment of solstice – when the northern hemisphere is at its furthest from the sun – was at 3.59pm yesterday, pagans and druids spent a second morning at the ancient site welcoming another day.

Today is the official shortest day of the year and the first day of astronomical winter, different from the meteorological winter which starts December 1. Shetland is the most extreme example with just five hours and 49 minutes of daylight. 

Yesterday dozens of people gathered at Glastonbury Tor in Somerset to welcome the sunrise on the day of the official solstice. 

And photographs show hundreds of people crowding around the Stonehenge monument this morning as the sun rose at 8.10am. Some chose to clamber on the rocks while one woman did a handstand up against one.

Last year the site was closed to the public, meaning those celebrating today were thrilled to be able to witness the phenomenon in person.

A druid blows a horn at the Stonehenge stone circle, as he welcomes in the winter solstice, as the sun rises in Amesbury. While the actual moment of solstice – when the northern hemisphere is at its furthest from the sun – was at 3.59pm yesterday, pagans and druids spent a second morning at the ancient site welcoming another day

Today is the official shortest day of the year and the first day of astronomical winter, different from the meteorological winter which starts December 1. Shetland is the most extreme example with just five hours and 49 minutes of daylight

Yesterday: Crowds of people gather at the Glastonbury Tor in Somerset to celebrate the winter solstice at sunrise

Photographs show hundreds of people crowding around the Stonehenge monument as the sun rose at 8.10am. Some chose to clamber on the rocks while one woman did a handstand up against one

The event at Stonehenge is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice because it marks the ‘re-birth’ of the sun for the New Year

Participants enjoy the sunrise at Stonehenge on December 22 in Amesbury. English Heritage, which manages the site, has allowed visitors into the event

Druids and revellers gather to celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge, Wiltshire on December 22

In 2020, despite the closure, several dozen Pagan revellers attended the site to worship, along with a number of security guards, but most went online to get a glimpse of the sunrise over the English Heritage site. 

The curator of Stonehenge, Heather Sebire, told BBC Radio Wiltshire: ‘The whole monument is orientated to the midwinter sunrise and the midsummer sunset. Today is marking the turning of the year.

‘The people who built Stonehenge were agriculturalists, they were growing their own food, they probably knew that the days would get longer, things would get better and with any luck their crops would grow again.’

The Winter Solstice is traditionally considered to fall on December 21, but the astronomically accurate shortest day of the year can vary by a few days either side. 

The English Heritage for instance, celebrates the winter solstice at Stonehenge on this astronomically accurate date which will this year fall on December 22.

A reveller blows a horn inside the stone circle as people take part in the winter solstice celebrations during sunrise at the Stonehenge

People take part in the winter solstice celebrations during sunrise at the Stonehenge prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire this morning. The moment of the solstice was 10.59am on Tuesday, but the Stonehenge celebrations are going ahead this morning because it marks the point at which days start to lengthen again

One reveller put their arms up in the air to welcome the sunrise while wrapped in a thick scarf, hat and mask

Revellers sing and dance at the Stonehenge stone circle as they welcome in the winter solstice

A person rests on the Stonehenge stone circle, as they welcome in the winter solstice, as the sun rises in Amesbury

It claims that because of a mismatch between the calendar and solar year, the December solstice is not fixed to a specific date.  

The winter solstice is juxtaposed by the summer solstice which typically falls on June 21 and marks the longest day and shortest night of the year.  

Stonehenge may have been built using a pulley system over a shifting conveyor-belt of logs 5,000 years ago 

Stonehenge was built thousands of years before machinery was invented. 

The heavy rocks weigh upwards of several tonnes each.

Some of the stones are believed to have originated from a quarry in Wales, some 140 miles (225km) away from the Wiltshire monument.

To do this would have required a high degree of ingenuity, and experts believe the ancient engineers used a pulley system over a shifting conveyor-belt of logs.

Historians now think that the ring of stones was built in several different stages, with the first completed around 5,000 years ago by Neolithic Britons who used primitive tools, possibly made from deer antlers.

Modern scientists now widely believe that Stonehenge was created by several different tribes over time.

After the Neolithic Britons – likely natives of the British Isles – started the construction, it was continued centuries later by their descendants. 

Over time, the descendants developed a more communal way of life and better tools which helped in the erection of the stones. 

Bones, tools and other artefacts found on the site seem to support this hypothesis.

Stonehenge, built thousands of years before machinery was invented, features rocks that weigh upwards of several tonnes each.

Some of the stones are believed to have originated from a quarry in Wales, some 140 miles (225km) away from the Wiltshire monument.

To move them would have required a high degree of ingenuity, and experts believe the ancient engineers used a pulley system over a shifting conveyor-belt of logs.

Historians now think that the ring of stones was built in several different stages, with the first completed around 5,000 years ago by Neolithic Britons who used primitive tools, possibly made from deer antlers.

Modern scientists now widely believe that Stonehenge was created by several different tribes over time. After the Neolithic Britons – likely natives of the British Isles – started the construction, it was continued centuries later by their descendants. 

Over time, the descendants developed a more communal way of life and better tools which helped in the erection of the stones. Bones, tools and other artefacts found on the site seem to support this hypothesis.

Meanwhile, hopes have risen today for a White Christmas in the north of England as the Met Office predicts snow fall for December 25 – but the south can expect rain.  

Parts of Britain face a ‘whiteout’ Christmas with snow expected to start falling to herald a wintry run-up to Christmas Day and beyond – although which regions will be hit worst is still in doubt.

Scotland, the far North of England and Northern Ireland are the areas most likely to enjoy a white Christmas on December 25, particularly on higher ground, with temperatures expected to drop as low as -6C (21F).

It comes after the UK’s coldest night of the winter for the third night in a row, with -9.3C (15.3F) at Braemar in the Cairngorms Monday night, after -9.1C (15.6F) on Sunday night and -8.9C (16F) on Saturday night in the same village.    

But the Met Office admitted that it was still unclear exactly where the boundary between cold and milder air will be, saying that this was ‘key as to where can expect any snow over Christmas’.

Conditions are forecast to become more unsettled from today, with bands of rain expected across the UK. Sleet, snow and ice are predicted over higher ground in Scotland before more snow is expected on Thursday.

Blizzards could be in store in Scotland on Christmas Eve thanks to strong winds. Edinburgh and Leeds are joint favourites with William Hill for snow at 4-9, with Newcastle, Birmingham and Manchester all at 10-11.

Some chose to clamber on the rocks while one woman did a handstand up against one. The English Heritage for instance, celebrates the winter solstice at Stonehenge on this astronomically accurate date which will this year fall on December 22

Some of the stones are believed to have originated from a quarry in Wales, some 140 miles (225km) away from the Wiltshire monument. 

People leant against the stones as they welcomed the start of winter, and the shortest day of the year

One man clambered on the rocks barefoot as he joined the crowds at Stonehenge on Wednesday morning

A woman held a stick and closed her eyes as she leant against one of the rocks at Stonehenge

A person did a handstand against one of the rocks as the crowds wandered through Stonehenge on Wednesday

Some took hula hoops with them and performed as the crowds dwindled during the course of the morning

Many of those watching the sunrise held large sticks and appeared to pray at Stonehenge on Wednesdsy

Areas further south are expected to remain mild and cloudy with some rain, and there is also the risk of fog across southern parts of England and Wales on Christmas Eve, which could affect travel.

The Met Office is uncertain about where Britain’s snow ‘boundary’ might be – between snowy and non-snowy parts of the country – but its official Christmas outlook, predicted Scotland is the most likely place to see snow.

The boundary will be driven by strengthening northerly winds during Christmas Eve. They will make it feel very cold, with the chance of blizzards over high ground. In the south, mild air remains in place, with cloud and spells of rain from the west.

The ‘blizzard’ forecast for Scotland could precipitate severe weather warnings for the festive period. Temperatures will dip through the week, with overnight freezes as cold as -6C (21F). 

What is the winter solstice? The shortest day and longest night of the year which typically falls on December 21

The winter solstice typically takes place each year on December 21, though it was one day later, on December 22 for 2019

The winter solstice occurs each year when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun, and we get the fewest hours of sunlight, and therefore the shortest day of the year. 

It is traditionally considered to fall on December 21, but the astronomically accurate shortest day of the year can vary by a few days either side. 

The English Heritage for instance, celebrates the winter solstice at Stonehenge on this astronomically accurate date which will this year fall on December 22.

It claims that because of a mismatch between the calendar and solar year, the December solstice is not fixed to a specific date.  

The winter solstice is juxtaposed by the summer solstice which typically falls on June 21 and marks the longest day and shortest night of the year.  

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