Crowds expected to gather to witness magical winter solstice light ceremony at Newgrange

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Despite the weather, it’s expected that like last year, crowds will gather to witness the winter solstice light ceremony on December 21. Last year the World Heritage site in Newgrange drew a large audience.

The 5,000-year-old Stone Age tomb is older than the pyramids, and over 32,000 people worldwide applied to witness last year’s magnificent winter solstice.

The tomb’s chamber lights up when the sun rises on a winter solstice morning. It is the only time of the year when the tomb lights up with natural sunlight.

Ancient Irish Druids and astrologists perfectly constructed the tomb so light could flood the tomb only during the winter solstice.

The winter solstice marks the end of the long nights and the beginning of longer days. This was a huge event in pagan times.

One woman that witnessed last year’s event said that it was "an honor to walk in the path of our ancestors."

The site was on the brink of closure in the 1990's due to the large and uncontrolled number of visitors to the site. In fact, there are fewer visitors to the site than there were 20 years ago. Every effort is made by the state to preserve the area.

Clare Tuffy manages the Newgrange visitor center Bru Na Boinne and she said, "There are fewer people visiting Newgrange now than 20 years ago and since the center opened (in 1997) the visitors are stretched out throughout the year; it is no longer a seasonal event."

"One of the most positive aspects of it is that it has restored the monument to its rural setting; you can hear the birds sing now, whereas before you wouldn't because of the sounds of the buses and cars. Twenty years ago, people were talking about closing it but now it's not a topic for discussion."

Over 235,000 people visit Bru Na Boinne and the neighboring sites every year. A lottery system was introduced when the Bru Na Boinne center opened. There had previously been a 10-year waiting list, and roughly 100 people are chosen each year to witness the once in a lifetime event.