If you’re planning on marking the Winter Solstice on December 21st, you may want to get caught up. Ireland’s shortest day won’t fall on that date this year!
The shortest day of the year, often known as the Winter Solstice, is the day of the year when the hours between sunset and sunrise are at their longest.
Although this might seem like a pretty depressing event for many, it has historically been viewed as a day of celebration. After this point, the sun begins to grow stronger, the hours of daylight increase, and we make our way toward the summer months once again.
The date of this day is traditionally celebrated in Ireland on December 21st, but this year the actual date of the solstice will fall on December 22nd.
What is the Winter Solstice?
The Winter Solstice is a term given to the day when the sun is tilted farthest from the northern hemisphere and therefore closest to the horizon.
On this day, the countries north of the equator receive the least amount of sun. For countries south of the equator, this day gives the most daylight hours, and they enjoy their longest day.
Why has it changed?
Traditionally, the various festivals and celebrations of the Winter Solstice take place across Ireland on December 21st. However, the modern calendar is a little out of sync with the ‘solar year’, which has 365.2422 days. This means that technically, the exact time of the Winter Solstice can change.
This year, Ireland will experience the height of darkness on the 22nd of December.
The Winter Solstice in Ireland
In Ireland’s pagan past, the time when we reached the height of darkness had great significance. In the past, it was marked with celebration and religious observation across the country. This tradition of marking the solstice still continues on the Emerald Isle today.
The best-known of these celebrations occurs at the megalithic tomb in Newgrange, County Meath. Older than the Egyptian pyramids, no one knows who is responsible for building the mound, but the importance they placed in the Winter Solstice is clear.
Only at this time of year does the sun in the sky align with the ancient structure and a shaft of sunlight streams into the inner chamber and floods it with light.
The dawn celebrations at Newgrange are held on December 18th-23rd (inclusive) and are open to everyone. However, only the 20 people who have tickets can gain access to the interior of the monument on each of these days.
If you fancy being one of the lucky few to experience this magical moment for yourself, you can apply for the next year’s ticket lottery here.
Other celebrations of Ireland’s shortest day of the year take place on the Hill of Tara, the Knockrow Passage Tomb in Kilkenny, Carrowkeel in Sligo, and Loughcrew in Meath.
But keep in mind, many of these will be organised around the modern, not the solar, calendar, so make your plans accordingly.