Winter Solstice 2021 – Sunset hits on shortest day of the Year as 1,000s check horoscopes, traditions & myths

CROWDS gathered at Glastonbury and Stonehenge this evening as sunset hit on the Winter Solstice.

The shortest day of 2021 fell today – 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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  • 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.

    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.

    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.

    • Louis Allwood

      How many daylight hours are there on shortest day of 2021?

      The number of daylight hours on the shortest day is, of course, shorter than other days of the year.

      On December 21, 2021, we will experience a seven hours and 50 minutes of daylight today, with the sun rising at 8.03am and setting at 3.53pm in London daylight.

      Many people mark the solstice by travelling to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, but visitors have been asked to take a lateral flow test before travelling due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

      Anyone venturing outside is advised to wrap up warm as its going to be cold with the chance of some showers although it will be mainly dry and cloudy, according to the forecasters.

    • Louis Allwood

      Top locations to see the Solstice

      It’s worse news for Alaskan residents, however.

      If you live in Anchorage, you’ll get just 5 hours and 27 minutes of daylight.

      That’s with a 10.14am sunrise and a 3.41pm sunset.

      Anywhere is lucky compared to Norway’s Tromsø, however.

      The extreme-north town not only has no daylight on December 21, but experiences total night for the entire month.

      If you live there, you’ll have to make do with polar light and artificial illuminations throughout December.

    • Louis Allwood

      Stonehenge history

      Stonehenge is around 5,000 years old.

      Experts say that the monument was constructed between 3000 and 2000 BC.

      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.

      It was built in three stages.

    • Louis Allwood

      Stonehenge rules for those visiting

      According to the English Heritage website, the following rules MUST be followed:

      • Stonehenge is seen by many who attend as a sacred place. Please respect it and please respect each other.
      • Amplified Music is inappropriate and will not be permitted.
      • Drunken, disorderly, and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated; ejection, by security staff and/or Police, without return, will be the outcome.
      • Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
      • Illegal drugs are still illegal at Stonehenge as they are anywhere else. The police will be on site during the access period and will take immediate action against anyone breaking the law.
      • Please do not bring dogs, pets or other animals into Stonehenge, with the exception of registered guide dogs or other assistance animals. Apart from potentially upsetting wildlife and stock in the area, animal faeces present a health risk to both people walking barefoot and children.
      • Please do not bring large bags.
      • Glass is not allowed at the monument as many people walk barefoot and, in addition, livestock and wildlife also graze in the area.
      • Camping is not permitted at Stonehenge, in the Visitor Centre car park or on the surrounding National Trust Land. Please do not bring duvets or sleeping bags.
      • Do not climb or stand on any of the stones – this includes the stones that have fallen. This is in the interest of personal safety, the protection of this special site and respect for those attending. As well as putting the stones themselves at risk, climbing on them can damage the delicate lichens.
      • To help us reduce the amount of litter on site, leafleting or flyering is not allowed.
      • Please do not light fires or bring flaming torches, candles, night-lights, fireworks, or any other type of real flame. Do not bring flammable substances or fuel. This applies to the stones and to the land that surrounds them. The nature of this access makes real flame extremely dangerous. It constitutes a potential fire hazard and is against stringent Health and Safety guidelines which must be observed. It also infringes local bylaws and regulations.
      • There is a No Fly Zone in place over Stonehenge during Winter Solstice which makes the flying of drones and remote controlled aircraft illegal. If you attempt to fly a drone or remote controlled aircraft from anywhere on site, including the Visitor Centre Car Park, you will be stopped and asked to leave.
      • Please be aware that live broadcast filming is taking place. By entering the Monument Field you agree that your likeness may appear in this broadcast.
      • Louis Allwood

        Stonehenge weather forecast fro tomorrow

        A bright start for some but cloud and rain arriving in Cornwall by lunchtime, spreading east to most of the region during the afternoon.

        Turning milder in west later. Breezier.

        Maximum temperature 12 °C.

      • Louis Allwood

        Sunset times for UK

        South-west England – 4.11pm

        South-east England – 3.53pm

        Wales and the Midlands – 3.55pm

        Northern England – 3.41pm

        Scotland – 3.37pm

        Scottish islands – 2.57pm

        Northern Ireland – 3.59pm

      • Louis Allwood

        Will nights get shorter?

        Yes, unfortunately they will.

        After the shortest day, the days start getting longer and the nights shorter.

        At the spring and autumnal equinoxes the day and night hours are around the same length, each lasting around 12 hours.

        The number of daylight hours peaks at summer solstice. 

      • Louis Allwood

        Don't miss out

        English heritage have released all of the times across the globe for when the Stonehenge live stream will begin.

      • Louis Allwood

        Sunrise and sun set times

        The Met Office have released all of the sunrise and sunset times for across the UK.

        Check them out below.

      • Louis Allwood

        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.

      • Louis Allwood

        Heading to Stonehenge tomorrow?

        Here is some advice on travelling to the Winter Solstice event tomorrow at Stonehenge.

        English Heritage have encouraged people to take public transport to attend the event.

        They said "We encourage you to take public transport as there is limited parking available.

        "English Heritage’s Solstice Car Parks open at 6am on Wednesday 22 December – there is no official parking provision before this time. To access the Solstice car parks, drivers should head to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre following Solstice signage and the directions of stewards in the local area.

        "There will be a charge of £5 per vehicle and £2 per motorbike. Commercial vehicles are permitted on a strictly limited pre-booked basis only."

      • Louis Allwood

        Explained: History of Newgrange (Continued…)

        Newgrange is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the Winter Solstice sun.

        Above the entrance to the passage of the mound there is an opening called a roof-box.

        On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 metre passage and into the chamber.

        As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated.

        For the second year in a row, the Office of Public Works (OPW), in partnership with the National Monuments Services (NMS) will broadcast the phenomenal event that marks the passing of the longest night of the year live.

      • 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

        Solstice meaning

        The world "solstice" comes from the Latin solstitium meaning "sun stands still" because the apparent movement of the sun's path north or south stops before changing direction.

        It is the shortest day of the year, having the least amount of daylight, and will generate the longest night.

        Across Europe it is known as Yule, from the Norse word Jul (or juul), meaning wheel.

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