Hundreds of well-wishers celebrated the Winter Solstice at Newgrange on Saturday morning and welcomed the narrow ray of sunshine that lit up the chamber of the ancient passage tomb for the first time since 2007.
Most of those present had been picked out of a lottery of over 29,000 people worldwide.
The strand of light broke through the roof box at the 5,000 year old monument in Co Meath at 8:58 am to the cheers of about 300 people who gathered outside the chamber to greet the sun.
“It was spectacular,” Catherine McGagh, from Kinlough, Co Leitrim, told the Sunday Independent. McGagh's 12-year-old daughter Hannah was one six schoolchildren from around Ireland who won a school art competition giving them privileged access to the site on the Winter Solstice, the monument's most celebrated day of the year.
“Magical is the word,” she said. “It was such a privilege to be here, better than winning the lottery.”
Edel Reilly, a 21-year-old nursing student from Monaghan town, was one of two guests who were selected at random in the yearly lottery, run by curators at the Office of Public Works (OPW), which saw 29,503 hopefuls from around the globe vie for a chance to be inside the ancient tomb to witness the sunrise.
“We were standing there in the darkness and then this gorgeous beam of golden light came in and flooded the chamber and then kind of just slid off to the slide. It was amazing,” she said.
“This feeling of awe just entered the chamber. You felt it was this really special moment and you could hear all the drums outside, it was just a lovely atmosphere,” she said.
A large number of New Age followers and pagan celebrants linked hands at the base of the monument and gathered outside to bang drums and hoist colorful flags in celebration.
Dubliner John Cantwell, 49, a healer and member of Sli an Chri or “Pathway of the Heart”, heralded the first ray of sunlight by blowing a horn handmade from a bull and ram’s horn.
“Our ancestors who built this temple thousands of years ago were great astronomers and they knew something about the sun. I’ve been coming here for years and the majority of times, irrespective of the weather in Dublin or Belfast, the horizon is clear and we get an extraordinary experience of the sun like we do right now,” he told the Sunday Independent.
“It’s difficult to feel in any way negative about anything right now,” he said.