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October 1, 2017

Analyzing the Mayan Calendar Freak-Out of 2012

Boom. Ahh. Screeching. These are the sounds of human pain, and pain is what every human fears. In modern times, the idea of a doomsday has always been in the mainstream: raptures, meteors, zombie apocalypses. Some have even been made into TV shows. However, there is one doomsday idea that actually had people scared for the date December 21, 2012. What that day meant to a lot of people was the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. While many were genuinely afraid of the end of times, most of them were uneducated about what the end of the Mayan calendar actually signified.

The “end” of the calendar is actually not the end of the calendar. The Mayan Calendar has different cycles. For example, the end of the b’ak’tun cycle, the most recent cycle, was December 21, 2012. The entire b’ak’tun cycle lasted for 144,000 days. It was also the end of a cycle of thirteen b’ak’tuns, the beginning of which was on August 11, 3114 B.C.E. That cycle of thirteen b’ak’tuns is called the Long Count, and according to scholars, this literally defined the Classic Period of the Mayan civilization.1

Cubans participating in a ritual | Courtesy of AFP/Getty, from The Telegraph

Since the end of the b’ak’tun cycle and the Long Count cycle both coincided on the winter solstice of 2012, many people thought the sun would also align with the equator for the first time in 26,000 years.2 This eventually caused widespread panic; however, there actually was nothing to worry about. Since many people did not know that the end of the calendar only signified the end of a period, they began to freak out as the Gregorian calendar reached closer to that December 21. They began protesting, screaming at everyone “the end is near,” and some people even began stockpiling candles and essentials, and survival shelter sales were ever increasing.3 People then waited, and waited. Finally, the day arrived… and… nothing happened. People were shocked, and life went on. Workplaces and cities kept on their pace, unfazed by the threatening context behind the date.

An Artist’s Depiction of an Evil Mayan | Courtesy of Zuma World

Many people truly believed this would happen: this day meant death and doom, something people have always been scared of. These people were ready to be taken, for many people felt this was a prophecy of some sort. They thought the readings of Nostradamus, the Book of Revelation, Hopi Prophecy, and others had some truth to them, rendering this idea of a calendar prophesying the end of the world realistic.4 Some anticipated some sort of pick-and-choose session where Jesus would come back to Earth to save His people (Christians) and leave the rest behind.

The meaning of this 2012 phenomenon, now a debunked theory, is that people fantasize about a doomsday; they fear it, for they see it as a real possibility because of both their fantasies and the plethora of theories to read about. The idea of an apocalypse will always be appealing to some, for the end of times can show who a person truly is. Since most of this was widespread online hysteria, and not taken too seriously by most people, with hindsight now, we can see that it was clear that “this wouldn’t happen.”5

  1. Robert K. Sitler, “The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar,Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Volume 9, Issue 3, (2006): 25; V. Bohm, B. Bohm, J. Klokocnik, J. Vondrak, J. Kostelecky, “Dating of Mayan calendar using long-periodic astronomical phenomena in Dresden codex,” Serbian Astronomical Journal, Issue 186: (2013): 54.
  2. Sarah McCarry, “Is the World Going to End in 2012?” Scholastic Scope Vol. 61, Issue 5: 18 (2012).
  3. Nick Allen, Malcolm Moore, and Tom Parfitt, “Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears,” The Telegraph, (2012).
  4. Carl Johan Calleman, The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness (Simon and Schuster, March 25, 2004), 1-2.
  5. Stephanie Pappas, “After Mayan Apocalypse Failure, Believers May Suffer,” Live Science, (2012).

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Samuel Stallcup

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Recent Comments


  • alejandro arellano

    I remember exactly what was going on leading up to this scare. I remember being in 8th grade and giving a care in the world about this so-called end of the world dilemma.

  • John Estrada

    I could hardly recall 12/21/12, but I do recall the hysteria around the time. I myself never believed that the world was going to end or gave in to the scare of the end times. I knew that the apocalypse was some sort of hoax or misconception, but I had no idea it was a misunderstanding of the Mayan calendar. It’s interesting to know that the hysteria was just a cause of people’s lack of information and America’s ignorance.

  • Kenneth Gilley

    What an interesting article! I had heard of the theories that the world would come to an end on December 21, 2012, but I did not know the details behind those theories until now. It is amazing that anyone would believe that the Mayans could have predicted the end of the world like that. What is impressive, however, is how accurate the Mayan calendars were.

  • Amelia Hew

    I remembered people talking about the end of the world during the year 2012. Most of them seemed very interested about the topic and would fantasized what it’s like when our world comes to an end, articles about what would you do in your final moments were written and published throughout the school’s website and magazines. It’s amazing on how the Mayan’s calendar were able to predict the apocalypse so many years in the future, even though it didn’t really happened.

  • Emmanuel Ewuzie

    I still remember when that day was approaching. I remember the movie they made about that event. it was hilarious and had a lot of celebrities in it. I, an 11 year old boy, was a little scared too because everybody was like “life is over” and “the end is near”. My mom reassured me that I would be fine that the rapture is when the world would end.

  • Ruby Wynn

    I enjoyed reading this article. I remember when everyone was panicking about the end of the Mayan calendar. It was interesting to learn about the different cycles of the Mayan calendar. I knew that the Mayan calendar was circular and repeated, but I did not know that there were different types of cycles or that a certain number of cycles put together was important to the Mayans.

  • Montserrat Moreno Ramirez

    This calendar was a trending topic back in 2012, and it’s crazy how actually many people committed suicide due to the fear of having to come across the terrible things this year would bring. There was also a movie of this year and to be true it was just unbelievable and it had so much fiction on it. I found this article very interesting and well written since it explains the true meaning of the Mayan calendar and how it was was just the ending of a cycle not life.

  • Richard Morales

    December 2012 was definitely an interesting time, being only twelve years old I was not sure what to believe but I was nervous by the amount of people around me who were going crazy thinking the world was about to end. Obviously they were all wrong. I enjoyed reading this article as it reminded me of that crazy period in time and explained how the end of the calendar was not representative for the end of the world. I for one will never worry about the doomsday warning anymore because from my understanding nobody and predict the end of the world.

  • Madison Downing

    I always found it so funny when looking back to how the month of December in the year 2012 looked like. Half the population was freaking out while the other half laughed at the ones freaking out. Your article did a great job with explaining how the ending of the Mayan calendar was actually the ending of a cycle. No one really knows when the world is going to end and how it will be but we should enjoy the time we have now and not worry about when it is going to be taken away from us.

  • Diego Aguilera

    I really enjoyed this article as I remember this crazy event that had people going insane and even build forts. It was so crazy they also have a movie of what could’ve happened. I really liked the descriptive paragraphs that helped me understand a different side and the mains more. Definitely will do more research and look it up on youtube to get more information about 2012 doomsday.

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