Thousands of people have gathered at Stonehenge to commemorate this year’s Winter Solstice.
A crowd of 2,500 people - including Druids and Pagans - visited the World Heritage Site in Salisbury on Wednesday to mark the first sunrise after the longest night of the year.
It was the 5,000-year-old site’s largest gathering since the beginning of the pandemic and was also live-streamed globally.
The Winter Solstice occurs every year when the Northern Hemisphere is titled farthest away from the sun, meaning there are very few daylight hours.
It is not a fixed date but the shortest day of the year usually occurs on December 21 or 22 – this year, it was commemorated on Wednesday upon advice from Druid and Pagan communities for whom the occasion holds significance for.
Such communities consider the Winter Solstice the ‘re-birth’ of the sun for the new year.
English Heritage’s Jennifer Davies said: “It was lovely to reach the milestone of Winter Solstice, with the hope it brings of knowing the days are now getting longer, a feeling of optimism shared at this time of year for millennia.
“Over 55,000 people from around the world watched the sunrise live online along with approximately 2,500 people at Stonehenge this morning.”
There were social distancing and safety measures put in place at the site to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Kate Blackburn, Wiltshire Director of Public Health, said: “We know how special the winter solstice is for some people, and we want all attendees to enjoy the event safely. Although it’s predominantly an outdoor event, it’s really important people take a few simple steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Steps taken included attendees being asked to take lateral flow tests, social distancing and regular distribution of hand sanitiser.
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