In Wiltshire in southwestern England, about 24,000 people welcomed the sun today it rose above the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge on the longest day of the year. Dancers writhed to the sound of drums and whistles as floodlights colored the ancient pillars shades of pink and purple. Couples snuggled under plastic sheets.
Solstice celebrations were a highlight of the pre-Christian calendar. Bonfires, maypole dances, and courtship rituals linger on in many countries as holdovers from Europe's pagan past.
In more recent years, New Age groups and others have turned to Stonehenge to celebrate the solstice, and the World Heritage Site has become a magnet for men and women seeking a spiritual experience -- or just wanting to have a good time.
Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain 80 miles southwest of London, was built between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C., although its original purpose is a mystery. Some experts say the monument's builders aligned the stones as part of their sun-worshipping culture.
Read more in this article from the Associated Press in the New York Times.