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Sunny solstice 'good omen for 2012'
The omens are good that 2012 will be an excellent year, a druid has said, after the sun shone on Stonehenge during a dawn ceremony to mark the winter solstice.
Organisers of next year's London Olympics could perhaps take heart from the positive pronouncement by Rollo Maughfling, the arch druid of the standing stones in Wiltshire, after the ceremony.
He said that the sun rising over the horizon at the end of the religious service, bathing more than 1,000 people who attended in pale light, meant good things for the next 12 months.
The mild temperatures and sunshine at the pre-historic site were a marked contrast to last year's solstice, when the giant stones were surrounded by a thick blanket of snow and the winter morning mist obscured the actual sunrise.
"Just as the ceremony came to an end the sun came over the horizon, it was excellent," Mr Maughfling said.
"It has been a very jolly occasion. It's a good omen for the year ahead."
During the winter solstice, the sun is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.
The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days, leading up to the summer solstice in June.
The shortest day of the year often falls on December 21, but this year the druid and pagan community marked the first day of winter on Thursday because the modern calendar of 365 days a year - with an extra day every four years - does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days.