Winter Solstice 2009
Winter Solstice at Newgrange on Monday 21st December 2009
It was a clear frosty night on the eve of the Winter Solstice at Newgrange and expectations were
high for a good sunrise. By the morning of the Winter Solstice a bank of misty cloud had moved in to block
the sunrise, leaving the dignitaries and
winners inside the chamber in darkness.
About 200 people gathered outside the entrance to Newgrange and despite the
disappointment of the obscured sunrise and the bitterly cold wind there
was an air of celebration with good wishes shared between friends old and new.
It was after all the turning point of the astronomical year, a time to celebrate
the end of shortening days and the beginning of lengthening days.
The Winter Solstice at Newgrange was not streamed live on the internet in 2009. An
of the 2007 solstice
illumination is available as a full
length 1 hour video or a shortened compilation by Victor Reijs.
of the speakers and attendees from the very successful Winter Solstice Conference
held on the
20th of December were at Newgrange for the solstice, Martin Brennan
the main speaker at the Conference was clearly trilled to be back in Ireland after 25 years.
Martin is now living in Mexico where he is studying Mayan symbols which have many similarities to the
megalithic symbols of the Boyne Valley. Commenting on the doomsday predictions for 2012, Martin
says that the Maya did not predict doomsday for 2012 and that all of the hype and hysteria
surrounding a supposed Armageddon event coinciding with Winter Solstice 2012 has no basis
in the Mayan writings. He said there was strong synchronicity between the Mayan calendar and
Newgrange and the ancient monuments of Ireland. "Basically Newgrange was
being constructed when the Mayan calendar begins. Our job is to show that
Newgrange has been here for 5,200 years and that it’s going to be here for
another 5,200 years. There’s no need to panic whatsoever.
Sunday December 20th at Newgrange
The solstice lottery
winners on Sunday December 20th were winners on the double when the sun burst
through the low cloud and filled the chamber with golden sunlight. The following
is Elaine Keogh's report as printed in the
- December 2009.
Solstice viewers 'walk in the path of our ancestors'
Its popularity at one time threatened to close Newgrange, the country's most
famous stone-age passage tomb, to the public.
And as crowds flocked to watch this morning's sun rise on the winter solstice,
the 5,000-year-old site proved that it is still a massive attraction.
The ancient chamber is also flooded with the light of the rising sun for a
number of days either side of December 21. And yesterday, 10 lucky winners of a
got to view the winter sun
illuminate the inner chamber of the national monument.
Amongst the lottery winners who watched yesterday's spectacular event were Luka
Walshe (14) and his mum Mary from Dublin.
"It was brilliant, it was really great. It's not very big and it is kind of
surreal, but it's amazing,
" he said afterwards.
Also relishing the once-in-a lifetime experience was Joy Quintana, the deputy to
the ambassador to Ireland from the Philippines. "It was very exciting and a rare
privilege to experience," she said.
Roquena Domingo, who is staying in Ireland for the festive season, said: "It is
very intense to think that since it was built 5,000 years ago, that people have
been seeing the solstice here and you can feel that connection."
Celebrating the end of the winter and the start of the Celtic New Year were
druids Annette Peard and Anne-Marie Murphy, from Tara, Co Meath.
"It's a great opportunity to celebrate and honour the light coming back to the
" said Anne-Marie, who is from the Acorn druidic grove.
Annette said each of the sacred sites, such as
marked a different event in the year such as the solstice or equinox.
"Each site had a role, but they were inter-connected,
" said Annette, from the
Queen Tephi of Tara grove.
"It is an honour to walk in the path of our ancestors,
" she added.
Around 235,000 people visit Newgrange and its neighbouring passage graves at
And in the 1990s, there was concern that the numbers were not being controlled
and Newgrange, the most popular of the passage graves, would have to be closed
to the public.
However, those fears proved to be ungrounded, because the number of visitors to
the tomb has been spread more evenly throughout the year since the Bru na Boinne
was opened 12 years ago, according to
the centre's manager, Clare Tuffy.
"There are fewer people visiting Newgrange now than 20 years ago and since the
centre opened (in 1997) the visitors are stretched out throughout the year; it
is no longer a seasonal event
," she explained.
"One of the most positive aspects of it is that it has restored the monument to
its rural setting, you can hear the birds sing now, whereas before you wouldn't
because of the sounds of the buses and cars
"Twenty years ago, people were talking about closing it but now it's not a topic
," she added.
The prospect of waiting lists to view the solstice being booked out 10 years in
advance led to a decision to hold a lottery for tickets and 32,995 people from
all over the world entered this year's draw.
Elaine Keogh - Irish Independent
Irish Shamans celebrate the Winter Solstice at Newgrange.
Martin from the Nationwide RTE TV programme conceived a project to re-create the
Newgrange lightbox, passage and chamber at the Winter Solstice. The Lightbox is
an opening above the entrance to Newgrange, Archaeologists refer to it as a
roofbox. The Lightbox and passage are aligned to direct the light from the
rising sun around the Winter Solstice down the passage and light up the main chamber.
In consultation with Clare Tuffy the manager at Brú na Bóinne, it was agreed to
build the Newgrange replica on December 16th on the actual Newgrange site and
leave it there until the morning of December 18th. So there were 2 chances to
film the lightbox in action on the mornings of the 17th & 18th of December.
Winter Solstice photographs by Alan Betson available to purchase
Setting Sun Alignments
The Winter Solstice Setting Sun illuminates the chamber at the nearby
the cairn on Slieve Gullion
in Co. Armagh.
Boyne Valley Private Day Tours
Pick up and return to your accommodation or cruise ship. Suggested day tour:
Newgrange World Heritage site, 10th century High Crosses at Monasterboice,
Hill of Tara the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, Bective Abbey and Trim Castle the largest Norman castle in Ireland