Welcoming 2018 the Maya Way
Happy New Year! How did you ring in 2018?
Around the world, New Year's has become a key annual celebration, with fireworks, festive dinners, music and dancing. And here in Belize, we're blessed with not one, but two New Year's! One on January 1, and another in July.
To understand why, you need to know some basic information about the Maya calendar system, which dates back to the 5th century BCE. The ancient calendar actually comprises three distinct, but corresponding, calendars. They cycle around each other like the second, minute and hour hands on a clockface.
One of those calendars, the Haab', reflects our contemporary yearly calendar, and, similar to the Chinese zodiac, each year corresponds to a Maya deity. The Haab' has 18 months, each 20 days long, adding up to 360 days. At the end of the last month, a period of five nameless days brings the calendar around to 365 days, matching with the earth's revolution around the sun. It is during these days, known collectively as Wayeb, that the Maya have celebrated the turning of the years for centuries. And while the Gregorian calendar resets around the winter solstice, Wayeb takes place in July.
Since it falls outside the official 18 months, ancient Maya considered Wayeb to be a dangerous time, in which the separations between the world of the living and the Underworld dissolved. To this day, Maya temples throughout Central America paint their walls blue (a sacred color) during Wayeb to ward off evil spirits and to welcome the next year's forthcoming patron god.
Contemporary Maya ring in the New Year in other ways as well. Like January 1st in the Gregorian calendar, Wayeb commemorates coming full circle, starting anew and the prospects for a bright future. That means wearing new clothes, taking part in community events—baseball games, fire ceremonies, and dances are all popular—and engaging in sunrise and sunset celebrations.
So while we're still reveling in the memories of our New Year's Eve celebrations from December 31, everyone at Ka'ana is also looking forward to the next round of New Year's celebrations in July. It gives us double the opportunity for New Year's resolutions!
Want to visit Belize as one of your 2018 resolutions? Come stay with us!