OVERCAST skies meant the dawn came and went at Newgrange without a golden ray of light piercing the darkness of the ancient chamber.
Several hundred people gathered around the 5,000-year-old monument in Co Meath yesterday for the moment that marks the shortest day of the year.
Inside the passage, the grey of an early dawn gradually gave way to a paler shade of half light.
But there was no dramatic moment when a brilliant shaft of sunlight lit the floor and widened to a band before fading.
But that didn't matter to the crowds outside, including the McArdle family from Drogheda who start their Christmas every year with the winter solstice at Newgrange.
Dad Noel said: "We like to be part of the basic nature of life."
As the big moment neared, bodhrans echoed up the hill as dancing, singing people made their way to the mound. Leading them was Karen Ward, who runs a holistic centre in Smithfield, Dublin.
"I don't think the Irish people realise how important this site is," she said. "There is hope, there is light. For the ancient people, this was their nativity."