Thousands gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice

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Experiencing the winter solstice at Stonehenge
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Experiencing the winter solstice at Stonehenge
Visitors and revellers react 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
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
Visitors react 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
Visitors and revellers react 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
A visitor reacts 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
Visitors and revellers react 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
Visitors and revellers react amongst the prehistoric stones of the Stonehenge monument at dawn on Winter Solstice, near Amesbury in south west Britain, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Visitors and revellers react 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
STONEHENGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Members of the Shakti Sings choir sing as druids, pagans and revellers gather in the centre of Stonehenge, hoping to see the sun rise, as they take part in a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury on December 21, 2016 in Wiltshire, England. Despite a forecast for cloud and rain, a large crowd gathered at the famous historic stone circle, a UNESCO listed ancient monument, to celebrate the sunrise closest to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The event is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice, because it marks the 're-birth' of the Sun for the New Year. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
STONEHENGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Druids, pagans and revellers gather at Stonehenge, hoping to see the sun rise, as they take part in a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury on December 21, 2016 in Wiltshire, England. Despite a forecast for cloud and rain, a large crowd gathered at the famous historic stone circle, a UNESCO listed ancient monument, to celebrate the sunrise closest to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The event is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice, because it marks the 're-birth' of the Sun for the New Year. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
STONEHENGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Members of the Shakti Sings choir sing as druids, pagans and revellers gather in the centre of Stonehenge, hoping to see the sun rise, as they take part in a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury on December 21, 2016 in Wiltshire, England. Despite a forecast for cloud and rain, a large crowd gathered at the famous historic stone circle, a UNESCO listed ancient monument, to celebrate the sunrise closest to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The event is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice, because it marks the 're-birth' of the Sun for the New Year. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
STONEHENGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: People look towards the sun as druids, pagans and revellers gather at Stonehenge, hoping to see the sun rise, as they take part in a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury on December 21, 2016 in Wiltshire, England. Despite a forecast for cloud and rain, a large crowd gathered at the famous historic stone circle, a UNESCO listed ancient monument, to celebrate the sunrise closest to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The event is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice, because it marks the 're-birth' of the Sun for the New Year. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
STONEHENGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Druids, pagans and revellers gather in the centre of Stonehenge, hoping to see the sun rise, as they take part in a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury on December 21, 2016 in Wiltshire, England. Despite a forecast for cloud and rain, a large crowd gathered at the famous historic stone circle, a UNESCO listed ancient monument, to celebrate the sunrise closest to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The event is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice, because it marks the 're-birth' of the Sun for the New Year. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
STONEHENGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Druids, pagans and revellers gather at Stonehenge, hoping to see the sun rise, as they take part in a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury on December 21, 2016 in Wiltshire, England. Despite a forecast for cloud and rain, a large crowd gathered at the famous historic stone circle, a UNESCO listed ancient monument, to celebrate the sunrise closest to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The event is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice, because it marks the 're-birth' of the Sun for the New Year. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
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STONEHENGE, England, Dec 21 (Reuters) - More than five thousand pagans, druids and revelers gathered at Britain's ancient monument Stonehenge on Wednesday to celebrate the winter solstice.

The sun rose at the sight of the famed standing stones in the southwest English county of Wiltshire at 08:09 GMT, beginning the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

People played musical instruments, while others sang and took photographs of the rising sun which will provide just under eight hours of sunlight on Wednesday, said English Heritage, which protects the historical site.

Thursday marks the start of longer days before the summer solstice in June.

"I am from South Africa, I came for the solstice, especially for the solstice. I am a Pagan, a witch and this is about the best place to be," one woman said. (Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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