Winter Solstice 2018: Far and Near

By , December 21, 2018

Today is Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere (see Season of Darkness, Season of Light). This year’s shortest day/longest night is significant to our homestead, both for what happened this last year on the property, and off.

Off property, we visited Ireland earlier this year (see Every Sign a Song Cue) and, as I’ve mentioned before, one of the highlights, for us, was a visit to Brú na Bóinne, also known as Newgrange (see Sacred Space).

Bru na Boinne, Newgrange

Brú na Bóinne in October (Photo: Sarah A. Zeiger).

Returning home, and telling friends and family about our trip, we have learned to our surprise that many people don’t know about Brú na Bóinne, even by the Anglicized name, Newgrange. Even many of the people we know who have visited Ireland didn’t know about it!

The amazing feature of Brú na Bóinne is its sun chamber: the entire burial chamber was purposely aligned so that the rays of the winter solstice sunrise would pierce the heart of the chamber, lighting it up briefly.

Each year, people enter a lottery to gain a place in the chamber on the morning of the solstice (or one of the several days on either side of the date, when the sun rises in the same place). When we visited in October, we bemoaned the fact that we couldn’t be there on the solstice. However, when we took the tour inside the chamber, we learned that they had rigged electric lights to simulate the solstice sunrise, so we got to see a reasonable representation of the event!

Bru na Boinne, Newgrange

Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange) showing the tomb entrance (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Because so few people seem to know of it, let me offer this winter solstice/Christmas gift to you: go take a virtual tour of the tomb! (Scroll down until you see and can click the “take a virtual tour” button.) The lighting’s fantastic, and it provides access we regular tourists aren’t allowed (like the view from atop the mound!). Please do not miss this, it’s excellent!

Here at the homestead, we’ll see our first winter solstice with the new battery bank, installed around this year’s summer solstice. We’ve seen it in the maximum daylight, now we’ll observe it in the maximum darkness. I don’t know yet if I’ll chart its progress, as I have in past years (see Tracking the Homestead’s Individual Winter Solstice).

On top of it all, it’s snowing! We may have a white Christmas this year! The child in each of us hopes so.

Zeiger Family Homestead sun transit near winter solstice 2018

The homestead’s sun transit on December 20, 2018 (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger)

By the way, if your solstice skies are clear tonight, look for the “Christmas comet” near the Pleiades!

ADDENDUM: This evening, Aly gave me a Christmas present she made, early, because it’s more appropriate for Winter Solstice than Christmas. She made this out of a sheet of brass, with a dremmel and a jig saw. Her artwork represents standing in the main chamber of Brú na Bóinne, looking southeast toward the rising sun coming through the light box. Lovely, isn’t it?

Bru na Boinne candleholder

The Brú na Bóinne candle holder Aly made for her father (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

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