Winter solstice

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Winter Solstice

***** Location: Ireland
***** Season: Mid-Winter
***** Category: Season


Each year, the main observance of the winter solstice in Ireland is to marvel at the spectacular pictures showing the light of the rising sun entering the megalithic passage tomb at Newgrange and illuminating the burial chamber. Archaeologists are convinced that this is the result of careful and deliberate planning at the construction of the tumulus.

Every year, a number of people chosen by a draw, as well as politicians and journalists, make the pilgrimage to Newgrange in order to witness the unique spectacle. For the rest of the population, the pleasure comes from the news reports and the stunning pictures published in the newspapers. Amazingly, almost every year has a clear sunrise on 21 December, and very few winter solstices are spoilt by clouds or rain at the long awaited moment.

Isabelle Prondzynski, 2006


[Photo © http://www.knowth.com/winter-solstice/new-grange-2006.jpg]

Read much more about the megalithic passage tombs in Ireland, with some splendid photographs :

Solstice pictures of several years, including 2006 :


Winter begins slow farewell after long night closes
(© Irish Times, 22 December 2006)

No light ever seems as bright or as sudden as that on a Solstice morning. This is the sun that rises after the longest night, writes Eileen Battersby (Irish Times, 22 December 2006).

A stream of golden sunlight passes through the window box and along the passageway leading into the burial chamber of Newgrange during yesterday’s winter Solstice on the shortest day of the year.
Photograph: The Irish Times

Long before daybreak, the signs were good. The heavens were casting off the Dickensian fog that had shrouded the Boyne Valley, and many other areas, during a 48-hour spell of damp, murky weather that made one suspect that time might be better spent re-reading Bleak House than waiting for the sun.

As the Newgrange watchers and Save Tara protesters gathered at the Stone Age monument, one of the finest passage tombs in Western Europe, knowing smiles set the tone.

After two dull mornings in which the Boyne itself had been invisible, the optimists had been rewarded.
A formidable trio consisting of nature, the ancients and global warming had decided on an impressive Christmas present - a golden sunrise.

Night suddenly became day and the monument and its resident battalion of sentry-like standing stones emerged from the purple darkness.

The air was cold but dry, perfect. Early arrivals noted the appearance of a handsome black Labrador. Too busy to notice the lone rabbit that froze statue-like before darting into a nearby hedge, Nick seemed businesslike, deliberate, impressively self-possessed. Two years of age, he is an experienced sniffer dog - his brief to check out the monument. Down the passageway he went, indifferent to the archaeology but intent on his task.

On leaving the monument, he walked down the hill, his Garda handler at his side and settled down with a sigh. Sharing the back of the van was his good-looking sidekick, Hesky, a German Shepherd, eager if far less a specialist.

"He does patrol work," said his handler. Nick sighed again. Trained by the British Metropolitan police, he is an ambitious character who needs a challenge.

The chosen few, those who had won Solstice tickets as well as the usual Government Ministers filed by on their way into the mound. The rest of us waited, aware the show had already begun. Beneath a brightening sky, the warm pink turned to yellow as a blister of orange on the horizon began to take shape. The tree-lined ridge across the valley seemed to shimmer. By 8.45am, the sun was poised to break free. No light ever seems as bright or as sudden as that on a Solstice morning. This is the sun that rises after the longest night.

A woman wearing a pair of balloons, began to sway and wave her arms at the sun. "Is she trying to levitate?" asked an onlooker. "I hope not," answered his companion, "but that one over there might set herself alight." Oblivious to those of us watching the sun, stood a forlorn acrobat with a hoola hoop.

A number of cups attached to it were blazing. Meanwhile by 8.51am, on cue, the sun was displaying an emphatic sense of purpose, and had broken free of the horizon. Within five minutes, it was well clear of the ridge and was casting a bright light over the valley. The river, which had been a swollen torrent, for day had become a silver ribbon.

Faces turned away from the sky to the quartz-faced monument. A great beam of yellow was pouring through the roof box. Cameras were held aloft as were mobile phones - all recording the moment. The light began to withdraw, its mission completed. Suddenly the party which had been inside the chamber, made its way out. As the first figures descended the steps, the sun moved behind the clouds. Nature and ancient man had said enough, winter had symbolically begun its slow farewell.

© 2006 The Irish Times


Worldwide use

Winter Solstice worldwide

Things found on the way


home for Christmas --
searching the paper for
the solstice views

Isabelle Prondzynski, 2006


Winter matriarch.
Solstice dawn dream takes me home,
Chamber at Newgrange.

Wayne Atherton - Eliot, ME (USA)

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***** Winter Solstice worldwide


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