The winter solstice happened this year at 8.09am on 21 December, when the north pole was titled farthest away from the sun.
It marks mid-winter, the shortest day of the year, and the time when the sun returns for ever increasing periods until the summer.
It is celebrated in paganism as one of four solar festivals in the “Wheel of the Year” –Winter Solstice (21 December), the Spring Equinox (21 March) the Summer Solstice (21 June) and the Autumn Equinox (21 September).
These are separated by four “fire festivals’ that are probably connected to the ancient farming year. The explanation and connection to paganism is on our fact sheet here.
The winter solstice has been traditionally marked at Stonehenge, which is long associated with paganism’s wheel of the year, as its stones align with the sunset and sunrise of the summer and winter solstices. More on Stonehenge history and its meaning on our fact sheet here
Druids in particular lay claim to the site, with a belief that emerged in the 17th century, that it was built by Druids. Fact sheet on Druidry here
This year, owing to the pandemic, English Heritage, which owns the site, said there should be no winter solstice gathering and instead live streamed the rising of the sun from early morning.