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22 December 2012
Crowds gather at Stonehenge and Newgrange to mark winter solstice

More than 5,000 people have gathered to mark the winter solstice at Stonehenge. The attendance was equivalent to five times the number that turned out at Salisbury Plain for last year's event. More people had been predicted to congregate, due to the infamous end of the 5,125-year 'long count' cycle of the Mayan calendar.
     Wiltshire Police said 'well over' 5,000 people had gathered to watch the sunrise over the giant stones at 08:05 GMT. The force said one person was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, and given a fixed penalty notice.
     BBC Wiltshire reporter Annie Weston, at the scene, said: "This is the only time when people are allowed into the circle of stones. It is absolutely packed. People are cheering and chanting and everybody was looking towards the sun for that special moment. There are flags flying, druids here too and people of various religions and faiths."
     At the same time, crowds gathered also at Newgrange, located in the Boyne Valley (co Meath, Ireland) - a 5,000-year-old tomb famous for the winter solstice illumination which lights up the passage and chamber if weather allows and can be viewed by a select group of people inside
     Access to the chamber is limited and is decided by lottery each year. Twelve lucky names were drawn from more than 30,000 people who applied for a ticket. The remainder were the six winners of a schools art competition for 10- to 13-year-olds, along with their guardians. Unfortunately, heavy cloud cover meant the sun failed to hit the spot this morning and provide those gathered with an unforgettable experience.
     Despite this, spokeswoman for the Office of Public Works Clare Tuffy said it was a great event. "There was a lovely atmosphere and everyone was very excited to be there, but unfortunately there was no sun," she said.

Edited from BBC News, The Irish Times (21 December 2012)

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