Today, the Irish and visitors celebrated the Winter Solstice as they did thousands of years ago at Newgrange, a huge Stone Age megalithic monument into the deepest part of whose main chamber the sun shines at sunrise. This year about 30,000 people participated in a lottery, from whom 50 were chosen, to be in the 5,000-year-old monument at sunrise to witness the primeval event the mornings of Dec. 18 to 23.
While the monument near the Boyne River in County Meath is open all year and is one of Ireland’s most popular attractions, it draws special international attention today.
Newgrange predates the great pyramids at Giza in Egypt by some 500 years and Stonehenge by about 1,000 years. When it was built, sunrise on the shortest day of the year, what we now call December 21, entered the main chamber precisely at sunrise. Experts say it is not by chance that the sun shines there. Now it enters about four minutes after sunrise because of changes in the Earth’s orbiting of the sun since then.
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