22 December 2017

Thousands celebrate Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

A cold, overcast morning welcomed the sunrise just after 8am
Crowds gather at Stonehenge for Winter Solstice

More than 5,000 people braved the cold weather to celebrate the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge in Wiltshire this morning.

The sun rose at about 8.10am to the sound of beating drums, chanting and cheering from the inner circle and beyond.

The Winter Solstice happens every year when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere this means that the sun is at its lowest point in the sky giving us the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice occurs during darkness on the 21st, and celebrations at Stonehenge take place the first sunrise following the solstice. 

Studying the passage of time has been important to many ancient cultures for hundreds of years. This includes the people of Stonehenge who may have relied on sunlight to keep them warm and to help their crops grow. Winter might have been a time of fear as days grew shorter and colder. People must have longed for the return of light and warmth. It is believed that this yearly cycle inspired Neolithic people to construct Stonehenge - a monument aligned to the movements of the sun.

Watch the sunrise on our YouTube channel.

The sun shining through the stones at Stonehenge

Kate Davies, General Manager of Stonehenge said:

'We were delighted to welcome approximately 5,000 people to Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice this morning. It was a very enjoyable and peaceful celebration and the ancient stone circle was filled with the sound of drumming and chanting. We'd like to wish everyone who attended a safe trip home and are looking forward to welcoming visitors over the festive season and in the new year.'

Discover more about the solstice with our explainer page What is the Winter Solstice?

Find out more about Stonehenge and plan your visit.

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