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Ready for 12.21.12? Mundo Maya Gears Up for New Cycle

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If you follow the Maya prophesy, 12/21/12 is supposed to be the end of the world as we know it. Michelle da Silva Richmond heads off the tourist path on the Yucatan to see how they are celebrating as well as marketing this historic date.

As the clock winds down to the end of the year, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is at the forefront of global awareness because of the ancient Maya prophesy which in some people’s imaginations – thanks in part to media hype – heralds the end of the world.

Yet, descendants of the storied civilization that once flourished here continue to carry on rituals introduced by their ancestors are looking to the future and are energized as never before. This year holds profound significance, since December 21, 2012 marks the end of the 5,125-year cycle in Maya cosmology. It is the start of a new calendar cycle, and not doomsday. The modern Maya scoff at the apocalyptic predictions and will tell you that this marks a new beginning and a chance to leave the past behind. It is a time of hope and renewal.

To celebrate this rejuvenation, area attractions and hotels in Cancun and along the Riviera Maya are in full swing with myriad activities and rituals to embrace this new beginning.

Xcaret, the area’s famed eco-archeological park, offers several themed events this month for families to explore Maya culture in a fun, interactive way during the special celebrations:

  • Through December 21, the special nightly show dubbed Xcaret Mexico Espectacular, will commemorate the Maya culture in the Tlachco area of the park.
  • Macaws were significant to the Maya as they symbolized the sun. To commemorate this, “Hand the Sun Over,” on December 21 and 22 will feature the release of 104 macaws in a blaze of glory into the universe.
  • Mystical meditation and guided nature journeys will be staged through December 22.
  • A gala dinner to celebrate the rebirth of the Maya calendar on December 21 will include dancing, a traditional meal, and a special tribute to the past.
  • The Maya honored the four cosmic directions with four different colored trees, which they believed were a vehicle for direct communication with the gods. Through December 22, guests are invited to re-enact this tradition and send their messages to the gods by tucking them into Ceiba trees. The Ceiba is sacred to the Maya as they believe that the gods sit atop them and listen to our wishes and desires.

Considered one of the world’s largest natural aquariums, Xel-Há is celebrating the new beginning with a series of renewal experiences including:

  • Yoga by the sea on December 20 and 22 which will include ceremonies to welcome the new era amidst a sea of floating candles.
  • Special purification and transformation experiences, throughout December to be held at the mouth of the area’s longest underground river, or cenote, which were sacred to the Maya.
  • Writing messages of renovation on the leaves of the sacred ceiba tree through January 6.
  • Nightly Maya astrological predictions December 17-22.

Not for the faint of heart, Xplor Adventure Park is offering guests a daring challenge to fly blindfolded 765 yards along their 147-foot high zip-line.

The ancient Maya city of Tulum is celebrating the end of the Maya Calendar with the Pyramid of Positive Thinking, designed by artist Xavier Maria y Campos. The pyramid, designed to reflect the Maya culture, was created with recycled plastic bottles containing positive thoughts written by residents and visitors to the area. It is expected to house some 700,000 thoughts from people around the world.  For those who can’t visit Cancun, positive thoughts can be submitted using the official Facebook page — Pyramid of Positive Thinking 2012.