Winter Solstice 2021 latest: Hundreds defy Covid & gather at Stonehenge to witness sunset on Shortest Day of the Year

CROWDS gathered at Glastonbury and Stoneheng as sunset hit on the Winter Solstice.

The shortest day of 2021 fell on Tuesday, December 21, otherwise known as the winter solstice, marking the day of the year with the fewest sunlight hours.

This year anybody attending celebrations at Stonehenge had been asked to take covid tests before gathering together.

Dozens of people were spotted by the stones before sunrise this morning, with many sticking around all day until this afternoon's sunset.

The word solstice literally means, in Latin, that the sun is standing still.

That's because it marks the point when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun.

Read our Shortest Day of the Year live blog below…

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  • Louis Allwood

    Winter Solstice messages

    People can greet others on winter solstice by saying “Happy Solstice,” “Merry Yuletide,” and “Happy Yule”.

    Here are some inspirational messages to get you in the spirit for winter solstice.

    "The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time – a time to contemplate your immortality." 
    – Frederick Lenz

    "It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade."
    – Charles Dickens

    Watch from home

    Enlgish Heritage will be live streaming the sunrise on the morning of 22 December for free on our digital channels.

    Visit the official Stonehenge or English Heritage Facebook page, or the English Heritage YouTube channel.

    Remember – beware of fake/scam Facebook pages, events and groups that might have been set up.

    Other Winter Solstice celebrations

    Celebrations of the lighter days to come have been common throughout history with feasts, festivals and holidays around the December solstice celebrated by cultures across the globe.

    • St Thomas's Day: This is observed by Christians around the world
    • Feast of Juul: Marked in Scandinavia where people light fires to symbolise the heat and light of the returning sun.
    • Yalda: An Iranian festival celebrated on the "longest and darkest night of the year” where watermelons are eaten to protect against excessive heat or disease.
    • Palo Volador: In Guatemala Mayan Indians indulge in the ritual known as the “flying pole dance”.
    • Joseph Gamp

      What is the Winter Solstice?

      It marks the day of the year with the fewest sunlight hours, or simply the shortest day in the year.

      The word solstice literally means, in Latin, that the sun is standing still.

      That's because it marks the point when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Where to see the Solstice from around the world

      The sunrise on a winter solstice will be much later than in summer months.

      In London, you’ll be able to see the sun rise at 8.03am.

      And it will set at a painfully early 3.53pm, giving Brits just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

      In New York, the city gets a little more daylight. The sun will rise at 7.16am and set at 4.31pm, giving Manhattan residents 9 hours and 15 minutes of daylight.

      And it’s even better over in Los Angeles. The Californian city sees sunrise at 6.54am and sunset at 4.47pm – a much more generous 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Explained: Where is Stonehenge?

      The site of Stonehenge is located on Salisbury Plain in Amesbury, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury in Wiltshire, England.

      Stonehenge was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986, and is one of the most Instagrammed tourist attractions in Britain.

      It can be seen from the A303 as you drive past.

      The site is a two-and-a-half hour drive from London, and an hour from Bath or Southampton.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Relevance of Stonehenge

      The stones of Stonehenge have silently marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years.

      They were shaped and set up to frame at least two important events in the annual solar cycle. 

      One is the midsummer sunrise at the summer solstice – the other is the midwinter sunset at the winter solstice.

      In Newgrange, Co Meath, during sunrise on the shortest day of the year, direct sunlight can enter the monument for 17 minutes.

      Not through the doorway, but through the specially contrived small opening above the entrance known as the “roof box” where it illuminates its chamber.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Stonehenge Covid restrictions

      Winter Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge will take place at sunrise on Wednesday 22 December 2021, subject to public health advice and guidelines nearer the time.

      English Heritage encourages attendees to take a lateral flow test before arriving, and remind you that you must not attend if you test positive or have Covid symptoms.

      Masks are mandatory on our shuttle buses and on public transport to and from the event.

      Guests are also encouraged to wear masks during the event to help keep everyone safe. Hand sanitising stations will be provided.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Rose’s Boyfriend attended final

      Rose’s rarely seen boyfriend, Samuel Arnold, made his studio debut as he burst with pride supporting his soap star love over the weekend.

      Sam jumped for joy as Rose was crowned the winner of the 2021 series alongside Giovanni becoming the first deaf person to win.

      The EastEnders star has tried to keep her personal life out of the public eye, and could be the reason why Sam did not appear in the Blackpool studio before the final.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Stonehenge Covid restrictions

      Winter Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge will take place at sunrise on Wednesday 22 December 2021, subject to public health advice and guidelines nearer the time.

      English Heritage encourages attendees to take a lateral flow test before arriving, and remind you that you must not attend if you test positive or have Covid symptoms.

      Masks are mandatory on our shuttle buses and on public transport to and from the event.

      Guests are also encouraged to wear masks during the event to help keep everyone safe. Hand sanitising stations will be provided.

    • Joseph Gamp

      What’s the difference between a solstice and an equinox?

      Although they both relate to a similar thing, there is a big difference between an equinox and a solstice.

      While a solstice represents either a longest or shortest day, the equinox falls on the days where day and night are the same length.

      This happens twice a year, midway between the summer and winter solstices, on March 21 and September 23.

      These are referred to as the spring and autumn equinox, marking the start of the seasons in the astrological calendar.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Is December 21 the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere?

      December 21 marks our winter solstice, but it’s the summer solstice if you head beneath the equator.

      In the southern hemisphere, the seasons are flipped compared to ours.

      That means December, January and February are the height of summer in countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

      So the December 21 solstice falls in the middle of their summer, while the June solstice is their winter.

    • Joseph Gamp

      What does the word Solstice mean?

      Have you ever thought about where the word ‘solstice’ comes from and what it means?

      It’s derived from Latin word solstitium – meaning ‘Sun stands still’ – because the apparent movement of the Sun’s path north or south stops before changing direction.

      At the winter solstice, the apparent position of the Sun reaches its most southerly point against the background stars.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Covid regulations in place for Stonehenge gathering

      Winter Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge will take place at sunrise on Wednesday 22 December 2021, subject to public health advice and guidelines nearer the time.

      English Heritage encourages attendees to take a lateral flow test before arriving, and remind you that you must not attend if you test positive or have Covid symptoms.

      Masks are mandatory on our shuttle buses and on public transport to and from the event.

      Guests are also encouraged to wear masks during the event to help keep everyone safe. Hand sanitising stations will be provided.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Who built Stonehenge?

      Part of what makes Stonehenge so mysterious is that it was produced by a prehistoric culture with no written records.

      Scientists regularly debate over how and why Stonehenge was built, and what it was used for.

      Archaeologists believe it was constructed by three groups – the Neolithics, the Beaker people and the Wessex Peoples – who are said to have finalised the site into what we see today.

      The latest theory, advanced by archaeologist and writer Mike Pitts, is that the rocks were there “millions of years before humans arrived”.

      His theory, which was published in British Archaeology, suggest that the rocks’ alignment with the solstice sun was merely a coincidence.

    • Louis Allwood

      Explained: History of Newgrange

      Newgrange is in County Meath, Ireland.

      The prehistoric passage tomb covered by a grassy mound.

      It was build 5,200 years ago making it about 200 years older than the Pyramids in Egypt.

      Although it’s difficult to estimate how long it would have taken to build the monument it did tell experts a great deal about the people at the time.

    • Louis Allwood

      End of the world talk returns

      The Winter solstice is here and some conspiracy theorists think it’s the end of the world.

      Bonkers theories predicting our impending doom have been fuelled by the Mayan calendar for years.

      Wacky Christian evangelist Pastor Paul Begley forecast that doomsday would strike on December 21, 2020.

      He’s predicted the same thing again for 2021.

      He cited the Mayan calendar and recent solar storm activity as evidence for his claims.

      According to Pastor Begley, the Mayan calendar has been resurrected once again and points to this date as one of apocalyptic significance.

    • Louis Allwood

      It's here!

      Today is the day of the Winter Solstice.

      It occurs twice – once for the northern hemisphere, and then again for the southern hemisphere.

      A winter solstice happens when one of Earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun.

      Nights will be their longest, and the Sun will appear at its lowest elevation in the sky.

      In London, the sun rise happened at 8.03am.

      And it will set at a painfully early 3.53pm, giving Brits just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

    • Louis Allwood

      Happy Solstice

      People can greet others on winter solstice by saying “Happy Solstice,” “Merry Yuletide,” and “Happy Yule”.

      Here are some inspirational messages to get you in the spirit for winter solstice.

      “The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time – a time to contemplate your immortality.” 
      – Frederick Lenz

      “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
      – Charles Dickens

    • Louis Allwood

      How to watch without risking catching covid?

      Enlgish Heritage will be live streaming the sunrise on the morning of 22 December for free on our digital channels.

      Visit the official Stonehenge or English Heritage Facebook page, or the English Heritage YouTube channel.

      Remember – beware of fake/scam Facebook pages, events and groups that might have been set up.

    • Louis Allwood

      What is Stonehenge?

      Instantly recognisable from the surrounding roads, Stonehenge is made up of a ring of standing stones – each of which are around 13ft (4.1 metres) high, 6ft 11in (2.1m) wide and weighing 25 tons.

      The stones are set within a group of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, as well as several hundred burial mounds.

      Stonehenge was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986, and is one of the most Instagrammed tourist attractions in Britain.

      In 1915, wealthy Shrewton resident Sir Cecil Chubb became Stonehenge's last private owner when he bought the site for £6,600. It is now estimated to be worth a huge £51 million.

      He formally handed it over to the state three years later, with a number of conditions.

      The site is managed by English Heritage – and is the third best view in Britain, according to a recent poll.

    • Louis Allwood

      Stonehenge confusion

      Part of what makes Stonehenge so mysterious is that it was produced by a prehistoric culture with no written records.

      Scientists regularly debate over how and why Stonehenge was built, and what it was used for.

      Archaeologists believe it was constructed by three groups – the Neolithics, the Beaker people and the Wessex Peoples – who are said to have finalised the site into what we see today.

      The latest theory, advanced by archaeologist and writer Mike Pitts, is that the rocks were there “millions of years before humans arrived”.

      His theory, which was published in British Archaeology, suggest that the rocks’ alignment with the solstice sun was merely a coincidence.

    • Louis Allwood

      What time is sunset on the shortest day of the year 2021?

      During Winter Solstice the sun travels the shortest path through the sky, creating the day of the year with the least sunlight.

      Crowds were seen gathering at Glastonbury and Stonehenge this morning to celebrate the occasion.

      This year’s Winter Solstice – the point where the sun is lowest in the sky – will take place on Tuesday, December 21 at 3:53pm in London daylight.

      It marks the end of autumn and the advent of winter as well as the gradual increase of daylight and shorter nights.

    • Louis Allwood

      Does it cost any money to watch Solstice at Stonehenge?

      Winter Solstice at Stonehenge will take place on Wednesday 22nd December 2021.

      Admission is free of charge.

      Entry to the monument will be from approximately 07:45 (or when it is light enough to safely enter) until 10:00.

      All vehicles must vacate the car parks by 11am.

    • Louis Allwood

      How to get to Stonehenge for Wednesday’s sunrise

      There will be a bus service on the morning of 22 December operating between Salisbury New Canal Street, Salisbury Rail Station, Amesbury The Centre and the Stonehenge Car Park.

      Please visit Salisbury Reds website for a timetable nearer the time.

      The Visitor Centre is approximately a 20 minute walk from the Stonehenge Monument Field. Visitors with accessibility needs will take priority on shuttle buses. Those visitors who are able to do so should dress for the walk in sturdy shoes and bring a torch.

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