Fáilte Ireland and the state’s Office of Public Works are live streaming the winter solstice at Newgrange, County Meath, the mornings of Wednesday, 20 December, and Thursday, 21 December, from 8.30 a.m. local time.
Subscribers to the tourism agency’s “Ireland Ancient East” YouTube Channel will get alerts to tune in at the appropriate times. The livestream will also be embedded to watch at http://www.irelandsancienteast.com/ with more context about Ireland and the nearby Boyne Valley.
Newgrange is a 5,200-year-old passage tomb built by Stone Age farmers. It is world famous for the illumination of its interior chamber by the winter solstice sun. As Newgrange.com explains:
Above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. This baffling orifice held a great surprise for those who unearthed it. Its purpose is to allow sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the shortest days of the year, around December 21st, the winter solstice. At dawn, from 19-23 December, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber.
As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9 a.m. The accuracy of Newgrange as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.
The intent of the Stone Age farmers who built Newgrange was undoubtedly to mark the beginning of the new year. In addition, it may have served as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death.