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Winter Solstice in Newgrange

See a natural illumination this festive season at dawn in Newgrange, Ireland on December 21st at 8:40 UTC. The earth's poles tilt to the extreme bringing the sun to shine over the tropic of Capricorn. Daylight enters the roof box, a special opening above the doorway, to fill the cross shaped chamber inside Newgrange monument. 

This astronomical phenomenon impact is particular to neolithic architecture such as Newgrange, one of the most well known passage tombs dating back to neolithic times, approx 3,200BC. The light beams for 17 minutes at sunrise during the hibernal, or winter solstice. This marks a significant time when dark days in Ireland become brighter.

Watch the phenomenon with us here in Ireland as the Irish Office of Public Works provides us with a live stream of the scene from the internal chamber at Newgrange this December 21st at 8:40 UTC. *Requires cookies to be enabled.

Neolithic people engineered precious monuments dedicated to the turning points of the year. As changes or rebirths occur these moments are deeply felt by those living in ancient times, and still have a relevance today.  

Once the sun rises above the horizon a loud cheer can be heard from the crowd gathered outside, so those in the chamber know that the sun is up and on its way. Four minutes after sunrise the first beam of sunlight will appear on the floor. There is an annual lottery for a place in the chamber held in September, when children from local schools select the sought-after spots. We hope for clear skies as it is impossible to forecast the cloud cover in a small patch of sky opposite Newgrange in the Boyne Valley.

Consider a visit to the Boyne Valley on a Private 7 Day tour North by West to see these sites. Start in Ireland's Ancient East and follow the dramatic coast north to the Giants Causeway, cliff walks and national parks, westwards and along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Brisk walks intrigue with sparkling frost coated blades of grass and tree branches. Sea mist and fog layer icy clouds by the coast and over castles on hilltops. Spires are covered by clouds when hastening winds whisk them away to bring a clear crystal starred sky to dazzle in the deeper night. 

Even on these dark days we relish in the moments of sheer brilliant light when the sun finally gets to beam through clouds, even if just before it sets. We notice how quickly the days go by in the run up to the holidays. December starts with plans rolling along, then suddenly we reach a point of panic and overwhelming to do lists. This too will pass, and the solstice marked at Newgrange reminds us to relish in the brightest moments and be grateful for the blessings of our time. 

The tentative beginnings of light at sunrise on the solstice bring hope for growing days and a time for transformation. Whether it is in Fairytales of New York playing on the radio, Away in a Manger sung at a school play, and Silent Night played on the tin whistle at home. We are called to dream and be calm and to take time for joyous togetherness. 

Towns excite to light up a central site and houses are layered in lights, trimming trees indoors and out. Warm glows emerge from meeting places and cozy spots to warm with hot drinks and mince pies. Warming us up to fuel the energy needed for festivities and the changing days to come. We are heartened by the hearth and in the warmth of our home.

Go with us On the Trail of Ancient Ireland Through Stone in our previous blog:


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