The dramatic illumination, a marvel of early astronomy, takes place every year in the inner chamber of Newgrange, a 5,000 year-old passage tomb in County Meath.
The tomb’s chamber lights up when the sun rises on a winter solstice morning.
It is the only time of the year when the tomb lights up with natural sunlight.
The spectacle, lasting just 17 minutes for five consecutive days in December, attracts major attention in Ireland and around the world from those interested in pre-Christian Irish history and mythology.
The Winter Solstice Draw was initiated several years ago to cope with the demand to be one of the few inside the chamber during the illumination.
This year, over 30,000 people applied for tickets to experience the unique chamber illumination. Just ten lucky individuals can obtain tickets each day for themselves and a guest for this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Newgrange predates the great pyramid of Giza in Egypt by an estimated 500 years, and Stonehenge in Britain by 1,000 years.
A massive, circular grassy mound with the passage and chamber at its centre, the tomb is part of the Brú na Bóinne complex of monuments, the largest and most important prehistoric megalithic site in Europe.
Each year hundreds of people flock to the tomb to be part of the atmosphere on the solstice morning.
For those who can’t get tickets, the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre has an extensive exhibition including a full-scale replica of the chamber at Newgrange.
The highlight of the tour is a re-enactment of the solstice through the use of electric lights within the tomb.
“This was a huge event in pagan times,” says Dubliner Eddie Barron, who applied unsuccessfully for a ticket, “but you can still connect with it today. It’s a cause for wonder.”
Application forms are now available at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre for the 2012 Winter Solstice Draw. It will take place on 28 September 2012.