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Revelers mark summer solstice at Stonehenge

Britain Summer Solstice 2012 crowds.jpg

June 21, 2012: Rain-sodden crowds welcomed a spectacularly rainy summer solstice at Stonehenge in true British fashion Thursday: With stoicism and wit. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

At the center of this ancient stone circle, they're partying like it's 2,000 B.C.

Latter-day druids and late-night ravers flocked to Stonehenge late Wednesday, as thousands celebrated the summer solstice -- the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

Each marked the occasion in his or her own way, with some pressing their heads against the stones in silent meditation and others shouting out pop tunes while swigging cheap booze from plastic bottles.

'It's one of the few times of the year you can go up and touch the stones.'

- Sandy Kay

"It's magic," said Sandy Kay, 37, whose dance troupe participated in the night's opening ceremony. "It's one of the few times of the year you can go up and touch the stones."

English Heritage, which runs the site, generally sees roughly 20,000 people at the annual all-night festivities which last until Thursday morning.

Revelers mixed with modern-day pagans at the site, whose original purpose remains shrouded in mystery.

It isn't just Stonehenge. Solstice celebrations also take place in other countries, although many are deferred until the last weekend in June.

Danes light bonfires, and Balts flock to the countryside. Swedes and Finns spend midsummer at secluded lakeside cottages or at open-air dance venues during a celebration when large amounts of alcohol are consumed often resulting in drownings, traffic deaths and domestic violence.