The truth is, the Mayans never thought the world was going to end on Dec. 21, 2012. That was just the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th* baktun, a unit of time on the Mayan calendar, 394 years.
I was at a Mayan ceremony celebrating the beginning of the new baktun, in Xcaret, Mexico. That’s a picture of it here, from by cell phone, in the audience.
Imagine yourself way back in the eighth or baktun, having your calendar all finished and painstakingly carved in stone for four 394-year baktuns to come. Wouldn’t you consider it done for a few generations, and go back on to something else? You’d assume not that the world would end, but that in the intervening 1000+ years, somebody else would add some more baktuns in plenty of time.
After all, carving into stone is very hard. Relax, have a Balché. They can do those other baktuns later.
Over the holidays I had the good fortune to spend my Christmas week with (some of) my family in my country-in-law, Mexico. In fact, we spent Dec. 21 together in the same place we spent New Year’s of 2000, Puerto Aventuras, in the heart of the Mayan world, on the Mayan Riviera. And both times, Y2K and Dec. 21, 2012, the world didn’t end.
(Perhaps the world should encourage us to go back there the next time people say it’s going to end. We could be persuaded. I think we’re good luck. That is, if the world is superstitious.)
We arrived on Dec. 20, on the brink of the end of the Mayan calendar and the end of the world. Supposedly. However, what we found, much to our delight, was an overwhelming consensus — local experts, local academics, taxi drivers, restaurant owners, merchants — that the whole thing was completely misreported. It was never an end of the world. It was always the beginning of a new age, or epoch, or, in Mayan, baktun.
On the 22nd, a beautiful day on the Caribbean, we attended the Mayan ceremony shown here. Celebrating a new beginning.
It’s about time.