Video Of The Day: New Year’s Celebrations Around The World


As the year comes to a close, here’s a look back on how the world rang in 2012. From Sydney to Cape Town, these impressive fireworks displays highlight some of the most famous cities and landmarks throughout the world – whether that be the London Eye or the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Tonight’s celebrations are sure to be just as impressive, so circle back to Gadling tomorrow for some photos from the start of 2013.

Why The Modern Maya Don’t Think The World Is Ending

If you want to meet Maya people, go to the Yucatan. More specifically, go to the city of Merida. Merida’s population is nearly at a million and 60% of all inhabitants are of Maya ethnicity. Roughly a third of the population of Merida speak Mayan – the Yucatec Maya language. Fighting for space for my body on the crowded sidewalks and space for my car on the congested streets, my time in Merida was spent in close physical proximity to the modern Maya, as comes with the territory when visiting the downtown area of a capital city in Mexico over a weekend.

Although Merida was created atop a Spanish-overtaken and demolished Maya community, the Maya culture today is preserved in Merida through museums, music, dance, art, fashion, markets, cuisine and language, as well as in other areas of modern Merida life. When the conquistadors set out to rule the land now known as Merida, the Maya were forced to learn Spanish and their books were burned. The stones from Maya buildings were used to build Merida – the walls of the cathedral downtown are made from these stones. Old Spanish city gates that were once a part of a massive wall still stand in Merida. The wall was initially erected to protect the city’s center from revolting Maya. The last major revolt was the Caste War of Yucatan (1847-1901). Today, an outwardly integrated city greets travelers and it is flush with Maya souvenirs and Maya experiences to take home.

%Gallery-173726%The words of Rigoberta Menchu were in my mind when I conversed with the local Maya about the popular Doomsday Prophecies:

“We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism.”

Before entering into these conversations, I already knew what I later found supporting evidence for in my discussions: modern Maya don’t think the world is ending on December 21. Careful not to speak in a way that would carry offensive implications of mystic misunderstandings, I asked the Maya I met about their own take on December 21 and all the hype. I asked the Maya on the street and in the market, I asked the Maya at restaurants and hotels. The answer was the same for everyone, there was no exception to this.

“We are entering into a new cycle,” they’d tell me. “This is just a new beginning,” they’d say without doubt.

I’m not alone in my findings. In a MINNPOST article, Phyllis Messenger, the president of the Maya Society of Minnestoa, is quoted as saying, “I have not yet run across any indigenous person who believes this is the end of the world.” The article’s author, Catherine Watson, goes on to make a good point when she reiterates the words of archaeologists with, “The Mayans probably didn’t fear the end of one baktun and the start of the next, archaeologists say. More likely, they celebrated it, much as we go all-out for really significant New Year’s Eves, like the ones when a century turns.”

Modern Maya aren’t worried because ancient Maya weren’t worried. The 13th baktun, a 400-year unit, is coming to a close and a new one is beginning. But because it is not a 14th baktun that is beginning but rather the first again (this method of tracking time is cyclical), the ancient Maya inscribed the date in zeroes. The lesson to take home from modern Maya: zeroes in this context represent resetting the clock, not unplugging it.

Make sure to check out the rest of my series, “Life At The End Of The World: Destination Yucatan,” which explores the Yucatan region, Maya culture and more.

December 21, 2012: An Introduction To The End Of The World

A charismatic and talkative man of Maya descent approached me one lively Friday evening just outside of La Plaza Grande in Merida, Mexico. With infectious enthusiasm, he discussed the history of the Maya in the Yucatan and Merida with me; his face gained color and animation as each topic rolled over into a new one. My Spanish isn’t very good, so my husband, who is half Mexican, translated that which I did not catch the first time around.

I had a bowl of Tortilla Soup for dinner that night. As I blew my breath onto each steaming spoonful, my husband recounted for me the story he’d just heard regarding the origin of the word, “Yucatan.” According to the man we’d just spent time with on the street, Hernan Cortes first told this story in a letter to Charles V, The Holy Roman Emperor. According to Cortes, when the Spanish first asked natives of the peninsula what the region was called, they responded with “Yucatan.” In the Yucatec Maya language, “Yucatan” translates as “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Nearly 500 years later, the truth is still lost in translation, muddled by time, language, personal beliefs and motives.

%Gallery-173647%With December 21, 2012, only a few days away, the hype surrounding it and its Maya roots has been amplified. Throughout my recent trip to the Yucatan, a stark contrast between the local and foreign opinion of this date was blatantly observable. As Jacob Devaney discusses in an article on the Huffington Post, prophetic fiction is powerful. Our tendency to take written words literally, no matter the gap between written and oral tradition, is also powerful. Our imaginations are worlds of their own, holding both the thread and ability to weave intricately detailed narratives with climaxes and resolutions that are tailored to suit our individual stories. When these stories happen to reflect the facts, they usually do so in varying degrees. The burden of proof for 2012 storytellers is often skirted by those who, to begin with, want to believe. What we have as a result is swampy literature thick with blurred lines between fact and fiction. Predictions for December 21 are abundant. To fully grasp both the intentions and present impact of the Maya, we must first become acquainted with the popular beliefs regarding this date.

The End Of The World

Some believe December 21 will be the day the world ends or the beginning of the end. Believers predict that the date will wreak catastrophe, particularly astronomical catastrophe. The arrival of the next solar maximum, interference at the hand of our galaxy’s center black hole, a collision with an unconfirmed hidden planet, an alignment of the planets, a pole shift and increasing disasters are some of the ways in which believers say the world might dissipate on December 21. Some have developed conspiracy theories on a massive government cover-up operation; an attempt at shielding the masses from the truth of the “end times.” Many who believe that the world will end on December 21 have linked their beliefs to the Maya calendar, claiming that the end of the Long Count calendar coincides with this date. In truth, the calendar does not end on December 21 – it simply moves into its next cycle. As expressed by Joseph L. Flatley on The Verge, this kind of information would normally go unnoticed were it not for our cultural preoccupation with The End. But rather than remain an ‘obscure piece of trivia,’ as Flatley puts it, the calendar’s ending cycle has been at the center of current mainstream and underground conversation.

According to the SETI Institute’s “Doomsday 2012 Fact Sheet,” some opinion polls are suggesting that a tenth of Americans are concerned about whether or not they will survive December 21. Teachers have reported that their students are fearful of the impending date. The mother of Adam Lanza, the young man responsible for the recent massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, has been identified as a “Doomsday Prepper.” The guns used in the shooting belonged to his mother, who had been stockpiling both weaponry and food for what she believed to be the approaching apocalypse. This date has been manipulated, exploited and profited from in most imaginable ways.

Professional scholars and scientists have worked to debunk the rumors and slow the rampant spread of doomsday theories. Maya scholars maintain that dark predictions for December 2012 are not referenced in any classic Maya accounts. Astronomers have disputed apocalypse theories tied to this date, explaining that the theories at hand conflict with basic astronomical observations. But the date holds significance even for those who don’t believe that it will usher in the end times.

A New Beginning

Some New Age beliefs imply that this date marks a period of time during which we will all undergo positive physical or spiritual transformation. Every Mexican I spoke with during my recent trip, including those of Maya descent, believed that this date simply marks a new beginning. December 21, our winter solstice, represents the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. Of course in this sense, the date will be “a new beginning” just as it is every year – the beginning of a new season. But perhaps the date will represent another kind of new beginning – a new beginning for the modern perception of the Maya civilization. For far too long, the great achievements and fascinating facets of Maya culture have been overshadowed by fear-mongering hoaxes. Perhaps with the coming and passing of December 21, we can continue where we left off on our journey of Maya exploration and understanding.

This is just the first post in a series on what I learned in the Yucatan about December 21, Maya Culture and the general region. Stay tuned for more.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Hotel News We Noted: December 7, 2012 (Special Edition)

end of the world renaissance hotelsWe write today with bad news. Judging by the amount of press releases in our inbox, the world will end on December 21, as predicted by the Mayan calendar, and nine days before, on 12-12-12, the publicity world will relish their last ever chance to send out far too many press releases about a holiday that may or may not happen.

And what reporters would we be if we did not bring you such news, interspersed with our favorite “Hotel News We Noted” of the week.

An Over-The-Top 12/12/12 Wedding at Jumby Bay
Book a wedding date to remember at Rosewood’s exclusive Antigua resort. Book the Once in a Lifetime Package and receive accommodations for three nights for 80 of your closest friends, private “White Night” party, cocktail and wedding reception, ceremony and more. Want to know how exclusive this place is? It once denied access to Princess Diana. Rates start at $230,000 for a three-night wedding event for up to 80 persons (40 rooms).

A 12/12/12 Promo You Can Afford
In honor of 12/12/12, Affinia Hotels in NYC and D.C. are treating guests to a special low rate of $112.12 for Sunday night stays available for booking on Dec. 12 between 12 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. only. Those looking to extend their stay beyond Sunday, can also receive 12 percent off any additional nights booked. This limited-time offer is available for travel from Jan. 2, 2013 – March 31, 2013. To book visit www.affinia.com/Dec12 and use promotional code TWELVE.

Gamble The Day Away
Packages to top gambling destinations on the last triple-digit date of the century are considered very lucky. OneTravel.com has packages bookable by December 9 available for as little as $437 per person for four-night stays in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.End of the World Cocktails at Renaissance Hotels
Celebrate doomsday with decadent cocktail treats at Renaissance hotels throughout the U.S., or, if you’re like us, celebrate in your living room with these delicious recipes!

Mayan Sacrifice
1/3 oz. Patron Silver Tequila
1/3 oz. Bacardi 151
1/3 oz. Grenadine
2 Dash Creole Bitters

Mix ingredients together in a mixing glass over ice. Shake and strain into shot glass. Ensure shot has sufficient red coloring.

Survival Punch
2 oz. Death’s Door White Whiskey
1 oz. Peach Schnapps
1 oz. Orange Juice
1 oz. Cranberry Juice
¼ oz. Velvet Falernum
Blood Orange Bitters, to taste
Rosemary Sprig

In a shaker over ice, combine all ingredients and shake. Strain using funnel into bottle. Serve full bottle with 2 rocks glasses filled with ice. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Hallucination Celebration
1 1/2 oz. Lucid Absinthe Superieure
5 oz. Champagne (fill glass)
Gold Flakes or Leaf

Sprinkle desired amount of gold flakes in champagne flute. Carefully add Absinthe. Fill glass with champagne. Garnish with gold flakes.

Hotel Openings: Four Seasons Goes To Africa
A few years ago, we told you that glamping was a thing. Now Four Seasons has gotten on the trend with the opening of Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Tanzania, the first of the brand’s properties in Sub-Saharan Africa (two additional properties are planned in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and an exclusive beach resort on the island of Zanzibar). This 77-room lodge features 12 suites with plunge pools, five free-standing villas, two restaurants and two bars. The hotel will offer a full-service fitness center and spa as well as opportunities for game drives. (Psst: Really want to get to Africa? We reported on another brand new lodge from the Singita brand last week.)

Hot Hotel Scene: Miami
We spent a night in Miami last weekend and explored some of what the hottest city on the East Coast has to offer, just in advance of its poshest event of the winter season, Art Basel, going on now. SLS South Beach, a Philippe Stark-designed masterpiece, is undoubtedly the center of Collins Avenue cool, with its Hyde Beach club, Jose Andres restaurant, and old school campground decor. We’ve also heard great things about The James Royal Palm, another boutique brand’s entrance into the Miami hotel world, and the soon-to-open B South Beach. We stayed at Hotel Beaux Arts, a unique hotel-within-a-hotel concept that’s a one-of-a-kind experience within the Marriott brand. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Port of Miami and downtown, this super high-tech hotel has rooms full of Bang & Olufsen amenities. While we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the sink, we sure did feel like a high roller, and, thanks to the in-house (well, in the attached JW Marriott Marquis) basketball court, movie theater, golf school, and virtual bowling alley, you could too. This would be an ultimate bachelor party destination.

Upcoming exhibition will debunk Mayan prophecy of the end of the world in 2012


An exhibition coming to Philadelphia will tackle this year´s hottest pseudo-archaeological topic: the Mayan prophecy that the world will end in 2012.

“Maya 2012: Lords of Time” at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will explain the Mayan civilization’s complex interlocking calendar systems through interactive displays and a rich collection of art and artifacts. These calendars developed out of an advanced knowledge of astronomy and an obsession with the cyclical nature of astronomical events such as the solar and lunar years, eclipses, and the movements of the planets.

One of these calendar systems is the so-called Long Count, which starts a new cycle every 1,872,000 days, or approximately 5,125 solar years. The current cycle ends on December 21 or 23, depending on which scholar you believe. Most scholars say the Long Count doesn’t actually end on this date, it merely starts another cycle. The other Mayan calendars keep going too. No Mayan text says the world is supposed to end this year. In fact, some Mayan inscriptions actually mention dates later than 2012. They don’t mention anything about cosmic vibrations, visiting UFOs, or any of the other bullshit theories being bandied about either.

Dr. Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, said in an interview that the ancient Maya felt the end of a cycle was cause for celebration. Anthropologist and Maya specialist Dr. Judith Maxwell did what the New Agers didn’t bother to do and actually asked the Maya what they thought. While the ancient civilization is gone, the Mayan culture is alive and well in Mesoamerica and Mayan shamans, called daykeepers, told Maxwell that the end is not coming.

Apparently the exhibition organizers agree there’s nothing to fear. The exhibition runs from May 5, 2012 to January 13, 2013.

So the world isn’t going to end in 2012.

This ranks top on my list of “unsurprising news of the week.” I’m 42, and I have a hard time remembering a year that the world wasn’t supposed to end. Some hack writer or religious conman is always trying to scare us into thinking the world is going to end. The sad thing is, people embrace this nonsense. The world is not ending this year. You still have to deal with the consequences of your actions and you still have to shoulder your responsibilities. Chances are you will have to do that for many years to come. Chances are you will grow old and live through many more of life’s ups and downs.

That’s not a bad thing.