Stonehenge marks winter solstice

More than 1,000 people have gathered at Stonehenge to mark the winter solstice.

Others also gathered at Avebury at about 08:00 GMT on Thursday to watch the sunrise on the shortest day of the year.

During the winter solstice, the sun is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.

Arch druid Rollo Maughfling said it was a "good omen for the year ahead" that the sun rose after the dawn ceremony.

He added: "It has been a very jolly occasion."

The shortest day of the year often falls on 21 December but this year and last year the druid and pagan community marked the first day of winter on 22 December.

That is because the modern calendar of 365 days a year - with an extra day every four years - does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days.

On Wednesday night, a white horse on a hillside at Alton Barnes, near Devizes, was lit up to mark the solstice.

People walked up the Wiltshire hill for sunset and placed candles around the horse.

Francine Blake, from Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group, said: "It's important to gather together, it's fun, this is the shortest time of the year.

"That's the custom of Christmas in fact, lighting up your house, lighting your inside and outside and bringing vegetation inside the house."

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