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Thousands of people have gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the first sunrise after the winter solstice.

Pagans and druids dressed in traditional clothing joined families and a choir to mark the end of the longest night of the year.

Thick cloud at the prehistoric site in Wiltshire meant the sunrise, at 8.10am, was not visible.

It'll only get better from here! Pagans and druids gather at Stonehenge to celebrate first sunrise after the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year


Around 5,000 people gathered at the prehistoric site in Wiltshire to mark end of longest night of the year

Marks the 're-birth' of the sun for the new year - but thick cloud meant sunrise, at 8.10am, was not visible

Stonehenge circle is normally roped off to public; special access is granted four times a year - at summer solstice, winter solstice, spring equinox and autumn equinox


By Nick Enoch for MailOnline
22 December 2017

Thousands of people have gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the first sunrise after the winter solstice.

Pagans and druids dressed in traditional clothing joined families and a choir to mark the end of the longest night of the year.

Thick cloud at the prehistoric site in Wiltshire meant the sunrise, at 8.10am, was not visible.


Thousands of people gathered at Stonehenge today to celebrate the first sunrise after the winter solstice



Pagans and druids dressed in traditional clothing joined families and a choir to mark the end of the longest night of the year


The event 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


Thick cloud at the prehistoric site in Wiltshire meant the sunrise, at 8.10am, was not visible


Stonehenge is believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons 4,000 years ago


More than a million people flock to Stonehenge every year, with thousands attending ceremonies to mark the solstices in summer and winter

The winter solstice was on December 21, marking the start of astronomical winter.

Stonehenge is believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons 4,000 years ago.

More than a million people flock to Stonehenge every year, with thousands attending ceremonies to mark the solstices in summer and winter.

Kate Davies, of English Heritage, said: 'We were delighted to welcome approximately 5,000 people to Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice this morning.


King Arthur Pendragon, who was born John Timothy Rothwell, is a senior neo-Druid - was in attendance at the stones


The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. It falls between December 20 and 23 every year in the Northern Hemisphere


The famous Stonehenge circle is normally roped off to the public, but special access is granted four times a year

'It was an enjoyable and peaceful celebration despite the damp weather and it was great to see so many families enjoying the music and chanting around the monument.

'We'd like to thank all our partners for helping to organise a safe solstice and wish everyone who attended a safe trip home.

'We are looking forward to welcoming visitors over the festive season and in the new year.

'We will open on Boxing Day after being closed on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.'

The famous Stonehenge circle is normally roped off to the public, but special access is granted four times a year.

This is only on the mornings of the summer solstice, winter solstice, spring equinox and autumn equinox.

English Heritage has 'managed open access', meaning the public can stand among the stones on these days.

Anyone can turn up on the day to get close to the stones, but people are asked not to touch or climb on them.

Organisers also have a ban on bringing glass bottles or pets onto the site and on playing amplified music.


Organisers have a ban on bringing glass bottles or pets onto the site and on playing amplified music


Pagan ceremonies continued at Stonehenge throughout the 20th century, despite hostility from some archaeologists who insisted there was no link between ancient religion and modern practices


English Heritage has 'managed open access', meaning the public can stand among the stones on special days

Kate Davies, of English Heritage, said: 'We were delighted to welcome approximately 5,000 people to Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice this morning'

One regular group of visitors to Stonehenge since the mid-19th century has been the neo-pagans, including people who claim to have resurrected the ancient practices of the Celtic druids


People from all over the world gathered to celebrate the winter solstice celebrations

Shortest day, longest night... Winter solstice

The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year.

It falls between December 20 and 23 every year in the Northern Hemisphere.

It occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly point - directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

This is when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun, resulting in the fewest hours of daylight in the entire year
The day marks the official beginning of winter.

In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the longest day of the year, while the shortest day falls on the June solstice.

Words: Libby Plummer


How Stonehenge is the centre of the neo-pagan world

One regular group of visitors to Stonehenge since the mid-19th century has been the neo-pagans, including people who claim to have resurrected the ancient practices of the Celtic druids.

It is believed that Stonehenge has been a burial and religious site since it was first built, but nothing is known of any specific rituals which might have taken place there in prehistoric times.

However, in the 1870s visitors started going to the monument on the night of the summer solstice - when the rising sun casts its first rays into the middle of the circle.

Prehistoric monument: It is believed that Stonehenge in Wiltshire has been a burial and religious site since it was first built

From 1905, the Ancient Order of Druids - which despite its name dates back only to the 18th century - carried out modern druidic rites at the site.

Pagan ceremonies continued at Stonehenge throughout the 20th century, despite hostility from some archaeologists who insisted there was no link between ancient religion and modern practices.

In the 1970s, the druids were joined by members of the burgeoning New Age movement, who held an annual 'free festival' at the monument and saw Stonehenge as a major landmark for followers of alternative lifestyles.

Problems in the past: Police arrest revellers at Stonehenge after disturbances on the summer solstice in June 1988

Concerned about the thousands of people who were flocking to the monument for the solstice, English Heritage gained a High Court injunction in 1985 banning revellers from entering the site.

When 600 people turned up anyway, it prompted violent clashes with police - known as 'The Battle of the Beanfield' - in which eight officers and 16 travellers ended up in hospital.

However in 2000, the monument's custodians decided to open up Stonehenge twice a year, on the summer and winter solstices - and now it also open for the spring and autumn equinox.


Read more: Stonehenge winter solstice sees pagans and druids gather | Daily Mail Online
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