Why do people celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge?

Why do people celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge?
Druids, pagans and revellers gather in the centre of Stonehenge, hoping to see the sun rise, as they take part in a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge (Picture: Getty Images)

Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, and every year people gather around Stonehenge to mark the occasion.

The historical and world famous site in Wiltshire is visited by thousands on the shortest day of each year as they celebrate the winter solstice at sunrise.

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But what is it? And why do people visit Stonehenge?

Officially, the winter solstice is the start of winter and the shortest day of the year – this occurred yesterday at 4.28pm.

Why do people celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge?
Several hundred people gathered at sunrise at the famous historic stone circle, a UNESCO listed ancient monument (Picture: Getty Images)

The term solstice refers to the sun being directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere at its most southern point.

When the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun this is when the winter solstice occurs.

Why do people celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge?
It is a major tourist destination, archeological and pilgrimage site during summer solstice and winter solstice (Picture: Getty)

Unfortunately, we won’t experience warmer weather until the Spring equinox in March 2018.

Stonehenge is a historical site famed for its culture and is made up of a ring of standing stones – each of which are around 13 feet tall.

Extraordinarily, some parts of Stonehenge are 5,000 years old.

Stonehenge snow
(Picture: Getty Images)

The site was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986.

Thousands of people gather around the landmark yearly to celebrate the winter solstice as it marks the revival of the sun for the start of a new year, according to Pagan traditions.

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People gather at sunrise to mark the occasion and celebrations take place throughout the day.

Stonehenge aligns with the sunset and sunrise on both the summer and winter solstice.

Druids, who put great importance on the environment at the centre of their spirituality, also see the site as significant and will gather at Stonehenge on the winter solstice.

King Arhur Pendragon, a Druid leader, told the BBC in 2014: ‘What we’re really here for is to celebrate the fact that the cycle of the world turns, and from now on the days get longer and it’s the return of the sun.

‘It’s a time of change and hope is renewed ― the same message really from a pagan perspective as from a Christian perspective. That’s what this season is all about ― a message of hope.’

MORE: What is the Winter Solstice? Five weird myths about shortest day of the year

MORE: When does it start getting light in the morning?

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