Before you know it, the holidays will be here once more, and with them come a bevy of exciting celebrations. The infectious holiday spirit will be front and center throughout the month of December for people all around the world. In the country of Mexico, holiday traditions are especially treasured, and a steady stream of celebrations keep the festive vibe in full swing. All December long, celebrations ranging from the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the New Year’s Eve tradition of eating 12 grapes keep everyone entertained; however, the celebration that outshines them all is the Mayan winter solstice.
Vast regions of Mexico and Central America were once dominated by the Mayan Civilization, who observed December’s winter solstice through a range of fascinating rituals. The winter solstice always falls between December 21st and 22nd, and the ancient Maya viewed the shortest day of the year as a symbol of renewal; knowing that spring was approaching and that each following day would be longer was reassuring. Modern-day Mayan priests still light incense and pray in observance of this day when the sun is the farthest distance from our planet in the Northern Hemisphere.
Center of Mayan Time
The author of the Center of Mayan Time, John Major Jenkins, revealed that the winter solstice “meant more than the birth of a new solar year. It meant the beginning of a new Great Cycle of time, the resetting of the great celestial star-clock of precession and, perhaps, an unprecedented shift in the nature of human consciousness and civilization.” Boasting an impressive astronomical system and sophisticated views on life, it should come as no surprise that many Mayan traditions have remained important influences in today’s modern life in Mexico.
Mayan Archaeological Sites
Mayan archaeological sites become a gathering place for throngs of people hoping to witness the incredible occurrences that happen on special days like this one. One such outstanding event takes place at Chichen Itza, where it looks as though the sun is rolling up the edge of the temple known as El Castillo as it rises into the sky. There is also a time during this day when the east and north sides of the temple are in absolute darkness, while the west and south sides stand in stark contrast as they bask in total daylight. This incredible incident is similar to the solar patterns that occur at the poles, and is one of several distinctive ways the Mayans celebrated this significant day every year.
Why not join in the winter solstice celebrations in Cancun and encounter Mexico’s most sacred legacy firsthand?