Get ready to celebrate the New Year, Maya style!
Pedestrian streets are filled with people. Music is blaring, drinks are flowing and the fireworks are about to go off. This is a typical scene during New Year celebrations according to the Georgian calendar. Around here, we get the best of both worlds with a Georgian New Year on the eve of December 31 and a Mayan New Year celebration on July 26.
One large difference though is the Maya New Year is not about blaring music and fireworks, but instead, is a spiritual journey dictated by the Maya calendar.
The Maya calendar consists of three different cycles or counts. One calendar is the Long Count. This is an astronomical calendar used to track longer periods of time what the Maya called the “universal cycle”. Each such cycle is calculated to be 2,880,000 days (about 7,885 solar years). The Mayans believe that the universe is destroyed and then recreated at the start of each universal cycle with the most recent cycle ending in December 2012.
The second calendar is Tzolkin which has a 260-day count and the third is the Haab, which has 360 named days and one month of five unnamed days (Uayeb) and follows the cycle of the solar system. The three calendars are used simultaneously. The Tzolkin and the Haab identify and name the days, but not the years. The Long Count date comes first, then the Tzolkin date and last the Haab date. Together they make what is referred to as the Calendar Round.
The calendar consists of 18 months of 20 days each, and one extra month of five-unnamed days. In the unnamed days, which translates to day out of time, certain rituals are meant to be followed.
According to the Haab Calendar, which follows the cycle of the sun and moon, the New Year begins on July 26. For the Maya, each July 26 marks the beginning of a new cycle and a new “personality” or essence for the upcoming year.
Day Out of Time (El Día Fuera del Tiempo), which is July 25, is often seen as a more important day than the day of New Year itself. On July 25, Maya people reflect back and give thanks for their blessings. They look back to what has been achieved and what lessons they have learned. July 25 is a link day where new ventures wait for the energy of the New Year. It is a time when anything can happen.
To mark El Día Fuera del Tiempo, everyone can take in the special traditional ceremonies by going to the El Meco Maya ruins which are about 5 kms north of Cancun (not far from the Cancun Hotel Zone). The site has several structures including a castle, temple and several buildings. Each year, El Meco honors the Maya New Year with an authentic Maya ceremony that includes sacred smoke cleansing rituals and other customs. The ceremony is held on the 21st of the month of July and begins at 8:00 a.m.
This traditional Maya ceremony gives wonderful insight into the richness of the local culture that still thrives in the state of Quintana Roo.