The Winter Solstice

The Winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year and it is celebrated in many cultures throughout the world. To the ancient Celts, the winter solstice was seen as a time for renewal and revival, when they could finally let go of the darkness that had gone before.  

Today, many people make the journey to ancient sites that align with the sun at the time of the solstice. One such place is the passage tomb at Newgrange in County Meath, one of Ireland's most famous neolithic monuments. Constructed around 3200BC, it has often featured in Celtic folklore, legends and art. The sunrise of the winter solstice casts light through the "roof box", an opening above the doorway. The passage and chamber inside are dramatically illuminated for around 17 minutes. 
Other popular locations for observing the soltice are at stone circles, such as those at Ballynoe, County Down, Drombeg in West Cork or Beaghmore here in County Tyrone.

Although today may be the shortest, darkest day of the year, the fact that the days following the winter solstice grow longer and brighter is thought to denote the triumph of light over dark. In Celtic mythology the Oak King, a symbol of light and summer would be caught in an ongoing battle with the Holly King, a symbol of darkness and winter.

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