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Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 10:22 GMT
Perfect day for Neolithic sunrise

Shaft of sunlight penetrates the Newgrange passageway Shaft of sunlight penetrates the Newgrange passageway


It was defined as nature's "true millennium" and it was beamed from Ireland all over the world on Tuesday.

The passing of the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year - was televised from Newgrange Neolithic burial mound in County Meath in the Irish Republic.


rish PM Bertie Ahern emerges from Newgrange chamber Irish PM Bertie Ahern emerges from Newgrange chamber
Only a handful of VIPs, including the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, were allowed into the small central chamber for the occasion.

The waiting list to watch the solstice at the 5,000-year-old site had become over seven years long, so the trustees of the site have decided to allocate places by lottery in future.

Some of the most expensive and elaborate high-tech equipment available was in position at the historical site to record the final solstice of the millennium.

Traditional celebration

The broadcast was shown in nine countries including Britain and the United States.

But some people are claiming that the new millennium does not begin until 1 January 2001, and what is taking place on Tuesday, is 12 months too early for a genuine celebration.

It is also claimed the actual solstice this year is on Wednesday 22 December.

Manager of Newgrange's visitor services, Clare Tuffy said: "Some years the solstice falls on the 21st and others on the 22nd.

"By tradition we celebrate it here on the 21st. There is very little difference on the amount of sunshine seen in the chamber anyway."

In the days before Christianity, festivals were held around the winter solstice to welcome back the longer, lighter days and pay tribute to the Sun.

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20 Dec 99 |  UK
New light on old Christmas traditions
20 Dec 99 |  UK
Christmas kiss saved as mistletoe thrives

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