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Druids gather at Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice

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For those of us that don’t love the cold weather, Dec. 21, the winter solstice and first day of winter, can be daunting. Not only do some of us still have to get to the mall and finish, or start, our Christmas shopping, today we get to look forward to three more months of ice, snow, and arctic breezes.

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If your glass is half full though, the winter solstice being the shortest day of the year also means that beginning tomorrow, the winter days will start getting longer, according to The Washington Post.

Today at 12:11 p.m., the sun was stationed “directly overhead along the Tropic of Capricorn.”

With the Earth’s North Pole at its maximum tilt from the sun, locations north of the equator see the sun follow its lowest and shortest arc across the southern sky. For the next six months, the days again grow longer as the sun spends more time above the horizon.

During today’s winter solstice, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere experience our “shortest day” of the year as the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky.

And while some of us still have to get to Walmart to buy wrapping paper, others, most notably the druids, pagans and hundreds of other revelers, are gathering at the Neolithic monuments at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England today for an annual celebration of the winter solstice.

Worshippers and partyers descended upon Stonehenge to watch the sunrise over the famous stones this morning, according to ITV.

Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument comprised of mysterious rock formations dating back to anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC, was created and left behind by a culture that left no written records as to the significance of the site and the monolithic stone formations.

Theories as to the existence of Stonehenge include the site being a place of healing, a sacred burial ground, a place of ritualistic passage from life to death, a site intended to unify the different peoples of the British island, and a place designed to perform celestial observatory functions.

Whatever the true reason behind the intended purpose of the rock formations at Stonehenge, druids, pagans and revelers are enjoying the winter solstice there today at an event claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice, because it marks the 're-birth' of the sun for the new year.

For more on Stonehenge, including the new visitor center just unveiled there, see the video accompanying this article.

Happy winter solstice everyone!

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