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30 January 2000
Winter solstice televised from Newgrange

It was defined as nature's "true millennium" and it was beamed from Ireland all over the world on 21st December 1999. The passing of the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year - was televised from Newgrange Neolithic burial mound in County Meath in Ireland.
      Only a handful of VIPs, including the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, were allowed into the small central chamber for the occasion.
      The waiting list to watch the solstice at the 5,000-year-old site had become over seven years long, so the trustees of the site have decided to allocate places by lottery in future.
      The broadcast was shown in nine countries including Great Britain and the United States. But some people were claiming that the new millennium does not begin until 1 January 2001, and what took place on last 21st December was 12 months too early for a genuine celebration. It was also claimed the actual solstice last year was on 22nd December. Manager of Newgrange's visitor services, Clare Tuffy said: "Some years the solstice falls on the 21st and others on the 22nd. By tradition we celebrate it here on the 21st There is very little difference on the amount of sunshine seen in the chamber anyway."
      In the days before Christianity, festivals were held around the winter solstice to welcome back the longer, lighter days and pay tribute to the Sun.

Source: BBC News (21 December, 1999)

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