We know that the Neolithic people celebrated the Winter Solstice in a variety of ways. Stonehenge itself is aligned to the Winter Solstice sunset, meaning that as the sun sets it follows a route between the great trilathon. This is opposite the avenue so you can imagine the view as your walking up the avenue and the sun is setting ready for the longest night.
There are many reasons why this time of year may have held significance to these people; the thought of the night being so long could have given rise to feasts either in celebration that the sun is coming back or in the hopes that the sun will come back. The cosmos is a very important aspect of prehistoric communities; with no artificial lights the stars and the moon would have been more prominent and things like solstices would have been more noticeable and not necessarily understood scientifically.
It is thought that this event was celebrated, during the Neolithic, with feasts at Durrington Walls followed by a procession, possibly with their dead, along the river to West Amesbury where they would disembark and walk the avenue up to Stonehenge.
The people of Amesbury have now recreated the events of their ancestors with their lantern parade. For the past few years this event has gained and gained in strength and significance and is now a well known and loved tradition in the town.
It is imagined that even long before the Neolithic people built Stonehenge, people were noticing and celebrating the longest night, right back to the people who inhabited Blick Mead 10,000 year ago. What better way to combat the longest night than to light lights, so that is the tradition that was started.
At the going down of the sun on the evening of the solstice the Amesbury lantern is taken to Stonehenge to capture the last dying light of the sun and encase it within the lantern. This lantern is then taken to the ancient spring near Blick Mead and a procession of people, carrying their own lanterns, comes from Amesbury Town to join the Amesbury lantern at the Spring. There is usually mice pies and mulled wine along the route and once they all arrive at the spring there is singing and merriment no matter what religion you are there is something for you.
The Amebsury Lantern is left alight for the whole night and taken back to sunrise at Stonehenge to be extinguished, he thought is that it lights the darkest night for Amesbury.
This is a really lovely event; a way for the people of Amesbury to connect with their Blick Mead and Stonehenge ancestors.