The December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year it falls on 22nd December

winter-sols

In ancient Pagan traditions, the winter solstice was a time to honor the cycles of life and death and celebrate the sun’s rebirth as the days would slowly begin to lengthen in the months leading into spring. Many modern practitioners of Pagan and earth-centered spiritual traditions observe the holiday, and at Stonehenge, the celebration is particularly special.

 

There is no access to the inner circle at Stonehenge on  between the 18th and 27th winter-solstice-tourDecember inclusive because of the winter solstice. There is, however, open access on the morning of the 22nd December to watch the winter solstice sunrise which happens about 8.09am.  We are are offering our usual exclusive guided Winter Solstice tour that departs from London or Bath, pleae visit our Stonehenge Tour website for full details.

 

THE winter solstice: the shortest day and longest night of the year.

So what is so important about this date? What about it possesses people to dress in unicorn masks and visit Stonehenge?

Here, we take a look at just what the winter solstice is – and why a day with so little sunlight is worth celebrating.

What is the Winter Solstice?

The winter solstice is a phenomenon that marks the shortest day of the year. Often referred to as the official beginning of winter, the solstice generally only occurs for a moment.

The true solstice occurs when the Earth is tilted the furthest away from the Sun on its axis. Despite it only lasting a moment, the full day is recognised.

When is the Winter Solstice?

The winter solstice generally falls between December 20th and 23rd.  This means, for the UK, the sun will rise at 8.04am and set at 3.54pm – meaning we will have just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.In 2017, it will fall on Wednesday, December 22nd.

A winter solstice also occurs in the Southern Hemisphere, with the day occurring in late June.

How is it celebrated?

The day is one that is celebrated by pagans and druids, with rituals of rebirth performed throughout history on the day.

One of the biggest celebrations in the UK occurs at Stonehenge with crowds gathering to watch the sunrise on the morning of the winter solstice.

The crowds of devotees, often dressed for the occasion, regularly gather at the historic site.  It is just one of the many pagan festivals, which include midwinter, midsummer and inbolc – the day that traditionally marks the start of spring.

The importance placed on the day comes from how people were previously so ecoenomically dependent on the seasons with straveation common in the first months of winter.

Will the days start to get longer?

After the solstice, the days will start to get longer.  The process is gradual, with minutes added everyday.

Join us on a Stonehenge guided tour from London or Bath and join the Pagan celebrations at sunrise on the Winter Solstice. This is a popular tour and shoule be booked in advance:
Stonehenge Winter Solstice Tour

The Stonehenge Experts
Stonehenge Guided Tours
http://www.StonehengeTours.com

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Travel blogger Teri Didjurgis joined us on our small group  Autumn Equinox tour and here is her story:

How to legally go inside Stonehenge Circle

Though some say Stonehenge is overrated, I found a way to visit the iconic site in a unique way to get a glimpse of the past……………………….

Druids and Pagans enjoying the Equinox sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge.

 

You can read the full story and tour experience on the BlueSkyTraveler  Blog:
How to legally go inside Stonehenge Circle

Experience for yourself our Stonehenge Equinox or Solstice Tours and remember to book in advance as these small group tours are very popular.

Stonehenge Guided Tours
http://www.StonehengeTours.com

Stonehenge Special Access Tours – Go beyond the fences in 2017

Demand for Stonehenge access tours far exceeds supply, dates are often sold out many months in advance. Do not expectStonehenge inner circle tours to get tickets without ordering well in advance. Register your interest with now with no obligation by simply sending us your email address and we will offer you 2017 tours before they are published online giving you the opportunity to secure your preferred travel date. These will include our exclusive small group tours and our preferred travel partner with departures from London, Salisbury and Bath.

Stonehenge Private Access visits are available most but not all months of the year, (no visits in October and November and are not available on and around the midsummer’s day).  Evening Special Access is only available in the summer months

Email: Experts@StonehengeTours.com

2017 Stonehenge Access Private Group Tours

In addition to our regular ‘scheduled group tour’ departures we are often able to get permission from the English Heritage for additional ‘inner circle’ tours for small groups (1-16 persons). These can be sunset or sunrise times depending on availability. These bespoke tours can also include Salisbury, Avebury, Bath, or Warwick Castle etc and can depart from London, Salisbury or Bath. This can often be cheaper than joining a scheduled tour, offers more flexibility, more personal and a better allround experience. Email us your desired dates and group size for a prompt reply

We specialise in arranging customised Stonehenge tours to suit your requirements. Our door to door service will take you wherever you want to go…….at the time and pace to suit you. Our personalised service gives you the ultimate freedom and flexibility without the worry of driving so you can all relax and enjoy the day.

Email: PrivateGuidedTours@StonehengeTours.com

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Operating Exclusive Stonehenge Tours since 1995

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At various times and in different (mostly Northern European) cultures, the solstice has gone by different names, such as Yule, Midwinter, and Jól. Nowadays, the solstice gets overshadowed by its more commercial and religious winter relatives: Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; but plenty of people still celebrate the winter solstice in its own right.

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If you’ve ever wondered what the solstice is, or why it matters, here’s the lowdown.

What is it?

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. From June to December, the days shorten and shorten until the solstice. After the winter solstice, days gradually grow longer again (yay!), which brings warmer temperatures. On the actual solstice, the North Pole gets zero energy from the sun — that is, no sunlight at all.

In the summer, we celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. (In the Southern Hemisphere, everything is flip-flopped — they’re celebrating the summer solstice in December.)

When is it?

Each year, the winter solstice falls on either December 21 or 22. This year, it takes place Tuesday, December 22 at 4:48 UTC (December 21 at 11:48 p.m. EST).

But I noticed the sun started setting later before the solstice…

An astute observation! Depending on where you live, the shortest day of the year doesn’t necessarily fall on the day with the earliest sunset or the latest sunrise. This has to do with what’s called “true solar noon,” the time when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. In early December, solar noon is about ten minutes earlier than it is when we hit the solstice. Thus, depending on the latitude where you live, the sunset may actually be slightly later on the solstice than it was earlier in the month. The closer you live to the Arctic, the more closely the earliest sunset and the winter solstice will match up.

What about the latest sunrise?

Unless you live in the Arctic Circle, the latest sunrise usually arrives in early January, which makes sense, knowing that solar noon moves later in the day starting in early December. There’s a variation in solar noon and noon on the clock, because of the tilt of the earth’s axis and the earth’s not-quite-circular orbit around the sun.

How long have we known about the solstice?

Our earliest ancestors tracked the seasons and years by changes in the sky: the movement of the sun, stars, and moon. Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in the world built to observe and celebrate our trek around the sun. Nowadays, 3,000 to 5,000 people visit Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the winter solstice and up to 30,000 visit for the summer solstice.

Article source: Refinery 29

Solstice Events U.K operate guided tours from London and Bath.  Experience sunrise on the Winter Solstice, a truly magical experience!

Stonehenge Guided Tours

From Pagan festivals to fire ceremonies and medieval football matches, all of these winter celebrations are keeping our ancient traditions alive – and are much more stimulating than the Christmas sales …

winter-solstice-wizard

Stonehenge winter solstice, Wiltshire: December 22nd 2014

Solstice celebrations – marking the shortest day and longest night of the year – happen right across the UK. But one of the focal points for the festivities will always be the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge. Each year, thousands descend on this field in Wiltshire to see the sun rise above the stones. Expect to see the druid and pagan communities out in full force, dressed in magnificent costumes and singing incantations within the circle. This year, the solstice takes place on 22 December, rather than the 21st, and you’ll be able to arrive at the monument as soon as the light begins to break.
• english-heritage.org.uk

Burning the Clocks, Brighton

Burning the Clocks procession to celebrate the winter solstice makes its way through Brighton.

21 December
A contemporary winter solstice celebration (and the most modern event on this list), the Burning the Clocks festival was conceived in Brighton in 1994 as a community event to be enjoyed, regardless of faith, and it takes place on the beach. Around 20,000 spectators turn up to witness the procession of light, which consists of a parade of luminous willow lanterns that are passed into a blazing bonfire. The event concludes with a huge fire show and firework display that lights up the seafront.
Parade starts 6.30pm, samesky.co.uk

Kirkwall Ba game, Orkney

The Ba KIRKWALL ORKNEY

25 December and 1 January
The Ba is an annual custom in which hundreds of men and boys take to the streets to embark on a medieval football match. It has been described as more like a “civil war” than a game. Windows are boarded up in preparation for the self-refereed melee in Kirkwall, capital of the Orkneys. The two teams – the Uppies and the Doonies – battle for control of the leather “ba’”, attempting to wrestle it towards the areas of the town designated as the goals. Ribs have been broken in the scrum, but the event has a festival spirit that unites the entire town.
Starts at the Mercat Cross on Kirk Green, free, discover-orkney.co.uk/the-ba

Grantchester barrel rolling, Cambridgeshire

Boxing Day Grantchester Barrel Rolling

26 December
One of many bizarre British Boxing day traditions, the Grantchester barrel rolling race is, well, pretty much as you’d imagine. Four local teams roll large wooden barrels up and down the street in a relay race, which is followed by the “County Championship” race between teams from Grantchester and nearby villages of Barton, Coton and Newnham. Founded in the 1960s, the race fell out of favour until it was revived in 2003 and, in keeping with most trivial pursuits, concludes with a booze-up at the local Rupert Brooke pub.
Coton Road, Grantchester, free, grantchester.org.uk

Keynsham Mummers play, Somerset

26 December
A bit like pantomimes, mummers plays are comic folk performances that have been performed around Europe since the Middle Ages. The tradition is kept alive by the likes of the Bristol Morris Men, who have performed the play every Boxing Day in the town of Keynsham since the idea was revived in the late 1970s (though records suggest the play originated in the town in the early 19th century). Expect melodrama, sword fighting and colourful costumes.
11am at St John’s Church, 11.30am at Keynsham Library, midday at the New Inn, bristolmorrismen.co.uk

Fishermen vs Fireman football match, North Yorkshire

Scarborough football

26 December
Nothing brings out the competitive spirit like a game against the local rivals. In Scarborough, the Boxing Day football match is a chance for local fishermen and firemen to thrash it out – in fancy dress – on the beach. One of the town’s oldest surviving customs, there’s evidence of the match taking place on the South Bay beach back in 1893. It started as a way of raising money for the families of four fishermen lost at sea, and now supports elderly or unwell people in the community.
South Bay Beach, 10am, free, discoveryorkshirecoast.com

Stonehaven Fireballs, Aberdeenshire

The Fireball Ceremony at Hogmanay, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Photograph: David Robertson / Alamy/Alamy

31 December

As this Stonehaven Fireball Association states proudly on its website, come rain, snow or storm “we have never cancelled”. This hardy 150-year-old fire ceremony is held on Hogmanay in Stonehaven, and is watched by thousands. When the Town House bell strikes midnight, the ceremony begins, with firedancers, known as “swingers”, making their way down the street, led by drummers and the Stonehaven Pipe Band and finishing with a firework display on the harbour.
Free, stonehavenfireballs.co.uk

Allendale Tar Barl festival, Northumberland

Allendale Tar Barrel festival on December 31

Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

31 December
Setting whisky barrels full of tar alight is certainly one way to warm up on a winter’s evening. In existence since the dark ages, the Allendale Tar Barl festival is another fiery event, consisting of a Pagan ceremony led by “guisers” – an hereditary team of 45 barrel carriers in traditional costumes. Whisky barrels filled with flaming tar are paraded across the town, before being thrown on to a huge bonfire.
Free, visitnorthumberland.com

The Haxey Hood, Lincolnshire

Smoking the Fool … a fire is lit under the Fool who makes a welcome speech before officially starting the Haxey Hood.

Smoking the Fool … a fire is lit under the Fool who makes a welcome speech before officially starting the Haxey Hood. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/the Guardian

6 January
And on the 12th day of Christmas … a man with a feathery hat tried to smuggle a leather tube into his local pub. The event, in the parish of Haxey, north Lincolnshire, is not unlike the mass rugby/football games that take place in various parts of the country where there are far more participants than rules – a large, chaotic match in which locals try to manoeuvre the leather “hood” to one of four pubs. The game, which can go on well into the evening, ends once the hood arrives at a pub, where it remains until the following year.
Free, wheewall.com/hood

Whittlesea Straw Bear festival, Cambridgeshire

The Whittlesea Straw Bear festival

9-11 January
If anything is going to help lift the spirits above the dreary grind of January, it’s a man dressed head to toe in straw, dancing to folk music. This Cambridgeshire festival includes barn dances and concerts, as well as a procession through the streets on Saturday with teams of Morris dancers and, of course, the belle of the ball: the straw bear. Come Sunday, however, the bear costume will go up in smoke during the “bear burning” ceremony, a symbolic act to leave the way open for the new harvest … and a new bear.
Concert and barn dance £10, daytime events free, strawbear.org.uk

Article source (The Guardian) by Will Coldwell
http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/dec/16/10-best-winter-festivals-events-christmas-new-year?CMP=share_btn_tw

Solstice Events U.K are offering their usual Stonehenge Winter Solstice Tour / transport from London

Stonehenge Guided Tours
http://www.StonehengeTours.com

Stonehenge Sunset and Sunrise Tour – 2014 Solstice Celebrations

The most famous prehistoric monument in the world, and now a world heritage site, Stonehenge stands alone in the vast empty tract of Salisbury plain. Its origins date back nearly 5,000 years and it has been home to pagan religion and spiritual worship, not to be mention public debate ever since. What was this vast collection of stones intended for? Was it observatory of the moon, a temple to the sun, or an elaborate cemetery? Who were the people who carried and carved these 40 ton rocks? Come and unlock the secrets for yourself and marvel at this remarkable and mysterious feat of ancient engineering and design, as we enjoy the wonderful celebrations that take place to mark the summer solstice.

The Sunset tour :

Mid Summer Sunset

Mid Summer Sunset

Join our Solstice Tour that departs London at lunchtime and heads west towards the site, taking time to enjoy the ancient stones at Avebury, before heading to picturesque Lacock for an early evening supper, included in the price. From here we journey to Stonehenge itself arriving at roughly 7pm, as it begins it’s annual celebration of the summer solstice. Huge crowds gather and there will be plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere of this historic event, walk amongst the stones, and observe the pagan rituals and ceremonies that take place at varying intervals throughout the evening. Please note there are two twenty to thirty minute walks involved during the day in order to see the celebrations at Avebruy and Stonehenge.

The Sunrise Tour:

Join our Premium Tour that departs London at 1am on the 21st June 2013 and heads directly to Stonehenge arriving at roughly 3am. The annual celebration of the summer solstice will be well under way by then as the atmosphere builds towards the sunrise, and the climax of the event. Huge crowds gather and there will be plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere of this historic morning, walk amongst the stones, and observe the pagan rituals and ceremonies that take place at varying intervals throughout the evening. Please note there is a twenty to thirty minute walk involved in order to get from the coach park to the event.

Summer solstice:

The solstice itself is an astronomical event that occurs twice each year as the Sun reaches its highest or lowest excursion relative to the celestial equator, with the sun appearing to have reached its highest or lowest annual altitude in the sky above the horizon.

The word solstice is comes from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun, as seen from earth stands still in declination before reversing it’s direction. Thus after the summer solstice the sun does not appear as high in the sky and daylight reduces. The solstice is therefore seen as the midpoint of summer in many cultures and is cause for celebration.

Pagan celebrations:

Like other religious groups, Pagans are in awe of the strength of the sun and the divine powers that create life. For many pagans, they believe that the Goddess took over the earth from the horned God at the beginning of spring and she is now at the height of her power and fertility. The summer solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and see their union as the force that creates the harvest’s fruits. To celebrate many Pagans and non Pagans head to ancient religious sites including Avebury and Stonehenge, to conduct fascinating and colourful ceremonies throughout the night enjoying the last sunset and sunrise before the sun alters it’s direction once more.

Additional information:

Please note that as a responsible tour operator we have a duty of care towards the places we visit and in this case we ask you to be take great care when visiting the historic site. It is important that Stonehenge and its surrounding Monuments are preserved for future generations and we ask you not to touch the stones, and not to leave any litter at the site.

Visitors are requested to dispose of their rubbish carefully at the designated recycling and rubbish points located in the Solstice Car Park and at Stonehenge. Clear recycling bags will also be handed out on arrival.. Please do not drop litter – bag and bin your rubbish so the recycling team can gather them up. It is a very sensitive landscape and still used by local farmers so please respect their crops and livestock.

There are authorised catering facilities on the site and some personal food and drink is allowed to be brought onto the site. Please bring them in a small bag – large rucksacks are not permitted. Glass is not permitted and will be confiscated – many people walk barefoot and the livestock graze in the area throughout the year. A small amount of alcohol is permitted on the site amounting to no more than one bottle of wine, or 4 500ml cans of beer or cider. Please note consumption of alcohol on the coach is not permitted. Due to the large numbers of people who attend the vent, naked flames are strictly forbidden. Small ground sheets and blankets are allowed.

Please note that there will be a lot of walking on grass involved and we recommend bringing warm clothing, sensible footwear and a small umbrella if rain is forecast.

*Due to the nature of this special event, we cannot guarantee exact arrival or departure times from Stonehenge so all timings are approximate.

Limited spaces so book early

Visit our website for full details: www.StonehengeTours.com

Stonehenge Guided Tour