Mayan Myths: The End Might Actually Come on Christmas Eve
December 21, 2012
Open Your Presents Early But by then, the advanced civilization was already at the edge of the abyss. Strife between to major cities, and later among several smaller ones, had weakened the Mayans. It was, one might think, the perfect time to predict the end of the world.
As it happens, however, they didn't. At least not for Dec. 21, 2012. The date is the end of the so-called baktun, comparable to the millennial change in our own calendar that was celebrated by people around the world on Dec. 31, 1999.
A baktun is a unit of time in the ancient Maya Long Count Calendar. This existed in addition to a calendar based on the solar year, which includes 365 days, as well as a calendar of rituals that repeats itself every 260 days. In the long count calendar, time is divided into ever longer phases. A baktun represents 144,000 days, or around 394 years. The Mayan calendar began around 5,125 years ago. According to their mythology, that was the time when this world was created. But they also believed that other worlds had existed previously.
Still, matching up our own, present-day calendar with that of the Mayans is not a precise exercise, and a deviation of a few days is conceivable. Grube says it is even plausible that the end of the 13th baktun might not be on Dec. 21 but instead on Dec. 24.