14 Photos of the Winter Solstice to Get You Ready for the Longest Night of the Year

December 20, 2017, 6:56 PM UTC
Visitors take photos amongst the prehistoric stones of the Stonehenge monument at dawn on Winter Solstice, near Amesbury
Visitors take photos amongst the prehistoric stones of the Stonehenge monument at dawn on Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, near Amesbury in south west Britain, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville - RC19BEF83640
Toby Melville—Reuters

The winter solstice, which marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, will happen at 11:28 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, Dec. 21. At that moment, the sun will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, south of the equator, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.

For thousands of years, people have taken part in rituals to mark the occasion. The most well known is the celebration at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Last year, pagans and druids were among the thousands to visit the ancient Neolithic monument and watch the sun rise on the shortest day of the year. Daylight lasted for just seven hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds, according to BBC. The event is thought to be even more important than the summer solstice in the pagan calendar because it marks the “re-birth” of the sun for the new year.

People will also visit Newgrange, a 5,200 year old passage tomb in northeast Ireland. This Neolithic monument’s passage and its three chambers align with the rising sun on winter solstice. The demand to be inside the passage during the solstice is so great that there is a lottery system with an application. Ireland’s Office of Public Works said more than 33,000 people applied from as far afield as Austria, Italy, and the U.S. Only a few will win.

Check out the gallery above for last year’s winter solstice from around the world.