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EDMONTON - Despite the doomsday end-of-the-world predictions surrounding Dec. 21, Ann De Leon expects Mayans around the world to spend the day celebrating, and with worthy cause.
“It’s their New Year’s and they don’t get to celebrate it every year,” said De Leon, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta who researches Latin American indigenous culture.
“They only get to celebrate a new year every 395 years, so that’s why it’s such a big deal. We do this every year, but they have to wait a long time for their new cycle. For them it’s exciting.”
De Leon said the link between the Mayan calendar and the end of the world likely began in the 1960s or 1970s with a misinterpretation of Mayan hieroglyphs.
“Someone said the end will be on this date, and people took that on and it spread like wildfire. Lots of New-agers picked it up,” said De Leon, whose interest in indigenous culture started during her childhood in Mexico City with visits to the National Museum of Anthropology and History.
Dec. 21 marks the end of the Mayan long-count calendar, but that’s not to say it’s the end of the world.
“They organized their calendar in a cyclical fashion. It resets at zero. They don’t believe in an end, instead it’s like a little slinky that keeps going and going,” De Leon said.
Mayan civilization used several calendars. Many were organized around the cycles of growing corn, a main food source, De Leon said.
Some calendars were adorned with symbols, comparable to zodiac signs. The new cycle starting Saturday is illustrated by a plant bursting out of the earth, which some interpret to mean a period of “new beginnings and starting new projects.”
De Leon said Mayans are “surprised, baffled, confused and amused” by the doomsday predictions. “They don’t understand what the big deal is.”