Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy winter solstice! to apocalypse and new beginnings

UT date and time of
equinoxes and solstices on the earth [1]
event Northward
month March June September December
day time day time day time day time
2010 20 17:32 21 11:28 23 03:09 21 23:38
2011 20 23:21 21 17:16 23 09:04 22 05:30
2012 20 05:14 20 23:09 22 14:49 21 11:12
2013 20 11:02 21 05:04 22 20:44 21 17:11
2014 20 16:57 21 10:51 23 02:29 21 23:03
2015 20 22:45 21 16:38 23 08:20 22 04:48
2016 20 04:30 20 22:34 22 14:21 21 10:44
2017 20 10:28 21 04:24 22 20:02 21 16:28
2018 20 16:15 21 10:07 23 01:54 21 22:23
2019 20 21:58 21 15:54 23 07:50 22 04:19
2020 20 03:50 20 21:44 22 13:31 21 10:02

Winter solstice in Northern Hemisphere.
The winter solstice is the solstice that occurs in winter. It is the time at which the Sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. [2] In the Northern Hemisphere this is the Southern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on December 21 to 22 each year.[3]
In the Southern Hemisphere this is the Northern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its northernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on June 20 to 21 each year.[4]
The axial tilt of Earth and gyroscopic effects of the planet's daily rotation keep the axis of rotation pointed at the same point in the sky. As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the same hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in half a year, face towards the Sun and experience summer. Since the two hemispheres face opposite directions along the planetary pole, as one polar hemisphere experiences winter, the other experiences summer.
More evident from high latitudes, a hemisphere's winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest.[5] Since the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as "midwinter", "the longest night", "the shortest day" or "the first day of winter". The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.
Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most Northern Hemisphere cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.[6]

History and cultural significance

Japanese Sun goddess Amaterasu emerging from a cave.
The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites such as Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). Significant in respect of Stonehenge is the fact that the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the centre of the monument, i.e., its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.[7]

Neolithic site of Goseck circle. The yellow lines are the direction the Sun rises and sets at winter solstice.
The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January and April, also known as "the famine months". In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.[8]
Since the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstitially based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay's redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. Also reversal is yet another usual theme as in Saturnalia's slave and master reversals.


Winter solstice
Winter solstice
Lawrence Hall of Science visitors observe sunset on day of the winter solstice using the Sunstones II
Also called Midwinter, Yule, the Longest Night
Observed by Various cultures, ancient and modern
Type Cultural, seasonal, astronomical
Significance Astronomically marks the beginning of shortening nights and lengthening days
Date Between December 21 and December 22 (NH)
Between June 20 and June 21 (SH)
Celebrations Festivals, spending time with loved ones, feasting, singing, dancing, fires
Related to Winter festivals and the solstice

Sunrise at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice
Direct observation of the solstice by amateurs is difficult because the sun moves too slowly at either solstice to determine its specific day, let alone its instant.[citation needed] Knowledge of when the event occurs has only recently been facilitated to near its instant according to precise astronomical data tracking. It is not possible to detect the actual instant of the solstice (by definition, one can not observe that an object has stopped moving until one makes a second observation in time showing that it has not moved further from the preceding spot, or that it has moved in the opposite direction). Further, to be precise to a single day one must be able to observe a change in azimuth or elevation less than or equal to about 1/60 of the angular diameter of the sun. Observing that it occurred within a two day period is easier, requiring an observation precision of only about 1/16 of the angular diameter of the sun. Thus, many observations are of the day of the solstice rather than the instant. This is often done by watching the sunrise and sunset or vice versa or using an astronomically aligned instrument that allows a ray of light to cast on a certain point around that time.
Before the scientific revolution many forms of observances, astronomical, symbolic or ritualistic, had evolved according to the beliefs of various cultures, many of which are still practiced today. The following is an alphabetical list of observances believed to be directly linked to the winter solstice.


Amaterasu Ōmikami appearing from the cave
— Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1882)


Beiwe Festival (Sami people of Fennoscandia)

The Saami, indigenous people of Finland, Sweden and Norway, worship Beiwe, the sun-goddess of fertility and sanity. She travels through the sky in a structure made of reindeer bones with her daughter, Beiwe-Neia, to herald back the greenery on which the reindeer feed. On the winter solstice, her worshipers sacrifice white female animals, and thread the meat onto sticks which they bend into rings and tie with bright ribbons. They also cover their doorposts with butter so Beiwe can eat it and begin her journey once again.[9]

Brumalia (Roman Kingdom)

Influenced by the Ancient Greek Lenaia festival, Brumalia was an ancient Roman solstice festival honoring Bacchus, generally held for a month and ending December 25. The festival included drinking and merriment. The name is derived from the Latin word bruma, meaning "shortest day" or "winter solstice". The festivities almost always occurred on the night of December 24.


Chawmos (Kalash people of Pakistan)

In the ancient traditions of the Kalash people of Pakistan, during winter solstice, a demigod returns to collect prayers and deliver them to Dezao, the supreme being. "During this celebrations women and girls are purified by taking ritual baths. The men pour water over their heads while they hold up bread. Then the men and boys are purified with water and must not sit on chairs until evening when goat's blood is sprinkled on their faces. Following this purification, a great festival begins, with singing, dancing, bonfires, and feasting on goat tripe and other delicacies".[10]

Christmas, Natalis Domini (4th century Rome, Christian)

Folktale of Father Christmas riding a yule goat.
Christmas or Christ's Mass is one of the most popular Christian celebrations as well as one of the most globally recognized mid-winter celebrations in the Northern Hemisphere. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, called the "Son of God," the second person of the Holy Trinity, as well as "Savior of the World." The birth is observed on December 25, which was the Roman winter solstice upon establishment of the Julian Calendar.[11] Activities include feasting, Midnight Masses and singing Christmas carols about the Nativity. Good deeds and gift giving in the tradition of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus is also observed. Many observe the holiday for twelve days leading up to Epiphany.


Deygān, Maidyarem (Zoroastrian, Greater Iran)

Theologically, Maidyarem is associated with Vahman, the Amesha Spenta (or Holy Immortal) who created the primal bull, and all cattle, and is associated with good plans and intentions. Maidyarem is celebrated in Dey, the tenth month of the Zoroastrian calendar, from the sixteenth (Mihr) to the twentieth (Bahram) day. There are also speculations that by the Persian calendar many celebrated on the last day of the Persian month Azar, the longest night of the year, when the forces of Ahriman are assumed to be at the peak of their strength. The next day, the first day of the month Dey, known as khoram ruz or khore ruz (the day of sun) belongs to God (Ahura Mazda). Since the days are getting longer and the nights shorter, this day marks the victory of Sun over the darkness. The occasion was celebrated in the ancient Persian Deygan Festival dedicated to Ahura Mazda, and Mithra on the first day of the month Dey.[12]

Dongzhi Festival (East Asian Cultural Sphere)

Hot citrus baths are taken
The Winter Solstice Festival or The Extreme of Winter (Chinese and Japanese: 冬至; Korean: 동지; Vietnamese: Đông chí) (Pinyin: Dōng zhì), (Rōmaji: Tōji), (Romaja:Dongji) is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the dongzhi solar term on or around December 21 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest; i.e., on the first day of the dongzhi solar term.
The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram (復, "Returning").
Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers (especially in the southern parts of China and in Chinese communities overseas) is the making and eating of Tangyuan (湯圓, as pronounced in Mandarin Pinyin: Tāng Yuán) or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion. In Korea, similar balls of glutinous rice (Korean: 새알심) (English pronunciation:Saealsim), is prepared in a traditional porridge made with sweet red bean (Korean: 팥죽) (English pronunciation:Patjook). Patjook was believed to have a special power and sprayed around houses on winter solstice to repel sinister spirits. This practice was based on a traditional folk tale, in which the ghost of a man that used to hate patjook comes haunting innocent villagers on the winter solstice.


Goru (Dogon people of Mali)

Goru is the (December) Winter solstice ceremony of the Pays Dogon of Mali. It is the last harvest ritual and celebrates the arrival of humanity from the sky god, Amma, via Nommo inside the Aduno Koro, or the "Ark of the World".[13]


Hanukkah (Judaism)

A Jewish child celebrating Hanukkah in the 1970s
Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה, Tiberian: Ḥănukkāh, nowadays usually spelled חנוכה pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew), also romanized as Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. An extra light called a shamash (Hebrew: שמש, "attendant" or "sexton") is also lit each night for the purpose of lighting the others, and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The shamash symbolically supplies light that may be used.
There is discussion if Hanukkah should be classified as a winter solstice holiday. The Jewish calendar is neither solar nor lunar in nature but exists as a tension between the two. As such, while the events that are commemorated by Hanukkah happened on or around the solstice, because of the use of the lunar calendar, Hanukkah is sometimes celebrated as early as late November.

Hogmanay (Scotland)

Torchlight procession on Calton Hill, Edinburgh
The New Years Eve celebration of Scotland is called Hogmanay. The name derives from the old Scots name for Yule gifts of the Middle Ages. The early Hogmanay celebrations were originally brought to Scotland by the invading and occupying Norse who celebrated a solstitial new year (Britain celebrated the new year on March 25, "Lady Day"). In 1600, with the Scottish application of the January 1 New year and the church's persistent suppression of the solstice celebrations, the holiday traditions moved to December 31. The most widespread Scottish custom is the practice of first-footing which starts immediately after midnight on New Year's Day. This involves being the first person (usually tall and dark haired) to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a fruit pudding) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts, and often Flies cemetery) are then given to the guests.[14]
Traditionally Hogmanay was a day of preparation and the celebrations did not begin until after midnight i.e. into the New Year. It was like many winter festivals and really celebrated the end of winter and the return of the sun.


Inti Raymi (Inca: Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador)

The Inti Raymi or "Festival of the Sun" was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the sun god Inti. It also marked the winter solstice and a new year in the Andes of the Southern Hemisphere. One ceremony performed by the Inca priests was the tying of the sun. In Machu Picchu there is still a large column of stone called an Intihuatana, meaning "hitching post of the sun" or literally for tying the sun. The ceremony to tie the sun to the stone was to prevent the sun from escaping. The Spanish conquest, never finding Machu Picchu, destroyed all the other intihuatana, extinguishing the sun tying practice. The Catholic Church managed to suppress all Inti festivals and ceremonies by 1572. Since 1944 a theatrical representation of the Inti Raymi has been taking place at Sacsayhuamán (two km from Cusco) on June 24 of each year, attracting thousands of local visitors and tourists. The Monte Alto culture may have also had a similar tradition.[15][16]



Junkanoo, John Canoe, Dzon'ku 'Nu (West Africa, Bahamas, Jamaica, 19th-century North Carolina, Virginia)

Junkanoo in The Bahamas, Junkunno or Jonkanoo in Jamaica, is a fantastic masquerade, parade and street festival, suspected to be derived from either Dzon'ku 'Nu (tr: Witch-doctor) of the West African Papaws, an Ewe people[17] or Njoku Ji, an Alusi (Igbo: deity) of the Igbo people.[18] It is traditionally performed through the streets towards the end of December, and involves participants dressed in a variety of fanciful costumes, such as the Cow Head, the Hobby Horse, the Wild Indian, and the Devil. The parades are accompanied by bands usually consisting of fifes, drums, and coconut graters used as scrapers, and Jonkanoo songs are also sung. A similar practice was once common in coastal North Carolina, where it was called "John Canoe", "John Koonah", or "John Kooner". John Canoe was likened to the wassailing tradition of medieval Britain. John Canoe was interpreted by many Euro-Americans to bear strong resemblance to the social inversion rituals that marked the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia.


Karachun (Ancient West Slavs)

Karachun, Korochun or Kračún was a Slavic holiday similar to Halloween as a day when the Black God and other evil spirits were most potent. It was celebrated by Slavs on the longest night of the year. On this night, Hors, symbolising the old sun, becomes smaller as the days become shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, and dies on December 22, the December solstice. He is said to be defeated by the dark and evil powers of the Black God. In honour of Hors, the Slavs danced a ritual chain-dance which was called the horo. Traditional chain-dancing in Bulgaria is still called horo. In Russia and Ukraine, it is known as khorovod. On December 23 Hors is resurrected and becomes the new sun, Koleda. On this day, Western Slavs burned fires at cemeteries to keep their departed loved ones warm, organized dinings in the honor of the dead so as they would not suffer from hunger and lit wooden logs at local crossroads.

Koleda, Коляда, Sviatki, Dazh Boh (Ancient East Slavs and Sarmatian)

In ancient Slavonic cultures, the festival of Koleda began at Winter solstice and lasted for ten days. In Russia, this festival was later applied to Christmas Eve but most of the practices were lost after the Soviet Revolution. Each family made a fire in their hearth and invited their personal household gods to join in the festivities. Children disguise themselves on evenings and nights and as Koledari, visited houses and sang wishes of good luck, like Shchedryk, to hosts. As a reward, they were given little gifts, a tradition called Kolyadovanie, much like the old wassailing or mummers Tradition.[19][20]


Lá an Dreoilín, Wren day (Celtic, Irish, Welsh, Manx)

For an unknown period, Lá an Dreoilín or Wren day has been celebrated in Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales on December 26. Crowds of people, called wrenboys, take to the roads in various parts of Ireland, dressed in motley clothing, wearing masks or straw suits and accompanied by musicians. Previously the practice involved the killing of a wren, and singing songs while carrying the bird from house to house, stopping in for food and merriment.

Maenad depicted in red-figure cup, ca. 480 BC, Louvre

Lenæa (Ancient Greece and Hellenistic Greece)

In the Aegean civilizations, the exclusively female midwinter ritual, Lenaea or Lenaia, was the "Festival of the Wild Women". In the forest, a man or bull representing the god Dionysus was torn to pieces and eaten by Maenads. Later in the ritual a baby, representing Dionysus reborn, was presented. Lenaion, the first month of the Delian calendar, derived its name from the festival's name. By classical times, the human sacrifice had been replaced by that of a goat, and the women's role had changed to that of funeral mourners and observers of the birth. Wine miracles were performed by the priests, in which priests would seal water or juice in a room overnight and the next day they would have turned into wine. The miracle was said to have been performed by Dionysus and the Lenaians. By the 5th century BCE the ritual had become a Gamelion festival for theatrical competitions, often held in Athens in the Lenaion theater. The festival influenced the ancient Roman Brumalia.[21][22][23]

Lohri (India)

In Punjab, the winter solstice is celebrated as Lohri. Lohri is of Punjabi folk religion origin[24] It finds no mention in the Hindu Puranas but has over time been twinned with the Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti which is celebrated a day after Lohri and is known as Maghi. For this reason, Lohri is not actually celebrated on the winter solstice but at the end of the month, Paush.

The Lucia procession in Sweden, 2007

Saint Lucy's Day, Lucia, St. Lucia (Scandinavia)

Saint Lucy's Day occurs on December 13, the Winter solstice according to the old (Julian) calendar. A young girl or woman is chosen to portray Lucia wearing a white robe and a red sash representing blood. She wears a crown or wreath with candles (today usually electric ones) and hands out treats to children. She is the one who brings the sun back and chases away winter. The chosen Lucia goes to the homes of the elderly and to hospitals very often, singing songs and glowing with candles. Frequently Lucia celebrations are held at a church where many women and men appear, dressed in white, and sing. However, it is only Lucia who wears the crown while others hold candles and wear tinsel in their hair and around their waists. The boys are dressed as 'Star boys' and wear pointed hats decorated with gold stars.
Lussekatter are often eaten around this time and are commonly made as large buns and sometimes served with coffee, though more commonly with gløgg. The word "lussekatt" ("Lucy cat") may be derived from the great Norse goddess Freya´s carriage drawn by cats. Very often it is the eldest daughter of a family who will wear a white dress and a crown of tinsel or green leaves, and candles. She will give the bread and coffee to her parents, often singing one of many Lucia songs.
Sweden takes this tradition very seriously, even going so far as to allow no male to wear the Lucia crown. Doing so often causes large uproar. It is a large honor to be picked to portray Lucia and many girls want to appear as her attendants in a large group to sing the Lucia songs. The year´s Nobel Prize winners are treated to coffee and "Lucy cats" at their hotel rooms, early in the morning.


Makara Sankranti (Hindu, India and Nepal)

Makara Sankranti, celebrated at the beginning of Uttarayana उत्तरायण, is the only Hindu festival which is based on the celestial calendar rather than the lunar calendar. The zodiac having drifted from the solar calendar has caused the festival to now occur in mid-January (see precession of equinoxes). In Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as the festival of Pongal. The day before Pongal, they celebrate Bhogi. In Assam it is called Magh Bihu (the First day of Magh), in Punjab Maghi and in Hindi speaking states, West Bengal and Maharshtra it is observed as Makar Sankranti and is celebrated by exchanging balls of sesame candy (Til Gur) and requesting each other to be as sweet as the candy balls for the next year. It is called Makara Sankrant because the sun enters the zodiacal sign of Capricorn on January 14 (Makar meaning Capricorn). It is celebrated with much pomp in Andhra Pradesh, where the festival is celebrated for three days and is more of a cultural festival than an auspicious day as in other parts of India. In some parts of India, the festival is celebrated by taking dips in the Ganges or another river and offering water to the Sun god. The dip is said to purify the self and bestow punya. In many states, mainly in Gujarat, families fly bright colorful kites from their roofs all day and into the night. It is a form of celebrating and welcoming the longer days. It is also very common to feed grass to the cows on this day. In Assam on Bihu Eve or Uruka families build house-like structures called bhelaghar and separate large bhelaghar are built by the community as a whole. Different sorts of twine are tied around fruit trees. Traditionally, fuel is stolen for the final ceremony, when all the bhelaghar are burned. Their remains are then placed at the fruit trees. Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. Since the festival is celebrated in midwinter, the foods prepared for this festival are such that they keep the body warm and give high energy. Laddu of til made with jaggery is specialty of the festival.[25]

Maruaroa o Takurua, (Māori people, New Zealand)

Occurring June 20 – June 22 the Maruaroa o Takurua is seen by the New Zealand Māori people as the middle of the winter season. It follows directly after the rise of Matariki (Pleiades) which marked the beginning of the New Year and was said to be when the Sun turned from his northern journey with his winter-bride Takurua (the star Sirius) and began his journey back to his Summer-bride Hineraumati.

Meán Geimhridh, Celtic Midwinter (Celtic, Ancient Welsh, Neo-druidism)

Meán Geimhridh (Irish tr: "midwinter") or Grianstad an Gheimhridh (Irish tr: "winter solstice') is a name sometimes used for hypothetical midwinter rituals or celebrations of the Proto-Celtic tribes, Celts, and late Druids. In Ireland's calendars, the solstices and equinoxes all occur at about midpoint in each season. The passage and chamber of Newgrange (Pre-Celtic or possibly Proto-Celtic 3,200 BC), a tomb in Ireland, are illuminated by the winter solstice sunrise. A shaft of sunlight shines through the roof box over the entrance and penetrates the passage to light up the chamber. The dramatic event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn from the 19th to the 23rd of December. "The point of roughness" is the term for the winter solstice in Wales which in ancient Welsh mythology, was when Rhiannon gave birth to the sacred son, Pryderi. Today, among Neo-druids, Alban Arthan (Welsh tr. "light of winter" but derived from Welsh poem, Light of Arthur) is celebrated on the winter solstice with a ritualistic festival, and gift giving to the needy.

"Midwinter blót" (at Uppsala Temple), by Carl Larsson (1915)

Midwinter (Antarctica)

In research stations throughout Antarctica, Midwinter is celebrated on the Southern Hemisphere winter solstice in June as a way to mark the fact that the people who winter-over just went through half their tour of duty. Depending on the station the celebrations can last from a day to a week and are typically marked by parties, team games, redecoration of the premises and days off work.[26]

Mōdraniht (Anglo-Saxon paganism)

Mōdraniht (Old English "Night of the Mothers" or "Mothers'-night") was an event held at Christmas Eve by the Anglo-Saxon pagans where a sacrifice may have been made. The event is attested by the medieval English historian Bede in his 8th century Latin work De temporum ratione. Scholars have proposed connections between the Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht and celebrations involving the dísir, the idisi, and the Matres and Matrones practiced by other Germanic peoples.

Mummer's Day, Montol (Celtic, Cornish people)

Mummer's Day referencing the animist garbs, or Darkie Day referencing the soot facing ritual, is an ancient Cornish midwinter celebration that occurs every year on December 26 and New Year's Day in Padstow, Cornwall. It was originally part of the pagan heritage of midwinter celebrations that were regularly celebrated all over Cornwall where people would guise dance and disguise themselves by blackening up their faces or wearing masks. In Penzance the festival has been given the name Montol believing it to be the Celtic Cornish word for Winter solstice.


Rozhanitsa Feast (12th century East Slavs, Russia)

In 12th century Russia, the eastern Slavs worshiped the winter mother goddess, Rozhnitsa, offering bloodless sacrifices like honey, bread and cheese. Bright colored winter embroideries depicting the antlered goddess were made to honor the Feast of Rozhanitsa in late December. And white, deer-shaped cookies were given as lucky gifts. Some Russian women continued the observation of these traditions into the 20th century.[27]


Shab-e Chelleh, یلدا , Yaldā (2nd millennium BC Persian Empire, Iran)

Derived from a pre-Zoroastrian festival, Shab-e Chelleh is celebrated on the eve of the first day of winter in the Persian calendar, which always falls on the solstice. Yalda is the most important non-new-year Iranian festival in modern-day Iran and it has been long celebrated in Iran by all ethnic/religious groups. According to Iranian mythology, Mithra was born at the end of this night after the long-expected defeat of darkness against light. Shab-e Chelleh is now an important social occasion, when family and friends get together for fun and merriment. Usually families gather at their elders' homes. Different kinds of dried fruits, nuts, seeds and fresh winter fruits are consumed. The presence of dried and fresh fruits is reminiscence of the ancient feasts to celebrate and pray to the deities to ensure the protection of the winter crops. Watermelons, persimmons and pomegranates are traditional symbols of this celebration, all representing the sun. It used to be customary to stay awake Yalda night until sunrise eating, drinking, listening to stories and poems, but this is no longer very common as most people have things to do on the next day.
During the early Roman Empire many Syrian Christians fled from persecution into the Sassanid Empire of Iran, introducing the term Yaldā, meaning "birth", causing Shab-e Yaldā to become synonymous with Shab-e Chelleh. Although both terms are used interchangeably, Chelleh is more commonly accepted for this occasion.[12]

Decorated Sri Maha Bodhi Tree in Sri Lanka

Sanghamitta Day (Buddhism)

Sanghamitta is in honor of the Buddhist nun who brought a branch of the Bodhi tree to Sri Lanka where it has flourished for over 2,000 years.

Saturnalia, Chronia (Ancient Greek, Roman Republic)

Originally celebrated by the ancient Greeks as Kronia, the festival of Cronus, (Cronos or Kronos being the Greek god and son of earth mother, Gaia and Saturn being his Roman equivalent) Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of Saturn, which originally took place on December 17, but expanded to a whole week, up to December 23. The Romans used a 12 times 30 or 360-day calendar with Saturnalia taking place as a supplemental five days that were "outside of time and therefore appropriate for more licentious behavior, such as excesses in eating and sexual exploits. A large and important public festival in Rome, it involved the conventional sacrifices, a couch set in front of the temple of Saturn and the untying of the ropes that bound the statue of Saturn during the rest of the year.
Besides the public rites there were a series of holidays and customs celebrated privately. The celebrations included a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia) and a special market (sigillaria). Gambling was allowed for all, even slaves during this period. The toga was not worn, but rather the synthesis, i.e., colorful, informal "dinner clothes" and the pileus (freedman's hat) was worn by everyone. Slaves were exempt from punishment, and treated their masters with disrespect. The slaves celebrated a banquet before, with, or served by the masters. Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals which led to more tomfoolery, marked chiefly by having masters and slaves ostensibly switch places, temporarily reversing the social order. In Greek and Cypriot folklore it was believed that children born during the festival were in danger of turning into Kallikantzaroi which come out of the Earth after the solstice to cause trouble for mortals. Some would leave colanders on their doorsteps to distract them until the sun returned.

Şewy Yelda (Kurdish)

The Night of Winter. Since the night is the longest in the year, ancient tribes believed that it was the night before a victory of light over darkness and signified a rebirth of the sun. The sun plays an important role in several ancient religions still practiced by some Kurds in addition to its importance in Zoroastrianism.
In modern times, communities in the Kurdistan region still observe the night as a holiday. Many families prepare large feasts for their communities and the children play games and are given sweets in similar fashion to modern-day Halloween practices.

Mosaic of Sol (the Sun) in Mausoleum M in the pre-4th-century necropolis under St Peter's Basilica. Some have interpreted it as representing Christ.

Sol Invictus Festival (3rd century Roman Empire)

Sol Invictus ("the undefeated Sun") or, more fully, Deus Sol Invictus ("the undefeated sun god") was a religious title that allowed several solar deities, including Elah-Gabal, a Syrian sun god; Sol, the god of Emperor Aurelian; and Mithras, a soldiers' god of Persian origin, to be worshipped collectively.[28] Emperor Elagabalus (218–222) introduced the festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) to be celebrated on December 25, and it reached the height of its popularity under Aurelian, who promoted it as an empire-wide holiday.[29] With the growing popularity of the Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth came to be given much of the recognition previously given to a sun god, thereby including Christ in the tradition.[30]

Soyal (Zuni people and Hopi people of North America)

Soyalangwul is the winter solstice ceremony of the Zuni and the Hopitu Shinumu, also known as the Hopi. It is held on December 21, the shortest day of the year. The main purpose of the ritual is to ceremonially bring the sun back from its long winter slumber. It also marks the beginning of another cycle of the Wheel of the Year, and is a time for purification. Pahos (prayer sticks) are made prior to the Soyal ceremony, to bless all the community, including their homes, animals, and plants. The kivas (sacred underground ritual chambers) are ritually opened to mark the beginning of the Kachina season.[31][32]


We Tripantu (Mapuche in southern Chile)

We Tripantu (Mapudungun tr: new sunrise) is the conclusion of the Mapuche New Year that takes place between June 21 and June 24 in the Gregorian calendar.[33] It is the Mapuche's equivalent to the Inti Raymi. The ancestral incertidubre stayed up throughout the year's longest night with anxiety that the next day would not come. After three days it became clear that the winter was diminishing. The Pachamama (Quechua tr: Mother Earth), Nuke Mapu (uke' Mapu) begins to bloom fertilized by Sol, from the Andean heights to the southern tip. Antu (Pillan), Inti (Aymara), or Rapa (rapanui) Sol, the sun starts to come back to earth, after the longest night of the year: it's winter Solstice. Todo start to bloom again.[34]


Yule (Finnic and Germanic peoples)

Yule or Yuletide ("Yule-time") is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the Northern European people as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar. The festival was placed on December 25 when the Christian calendar (Julian calendar) was adopted. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt.
Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for the Christian Christmas (with its religious rites), but also for other holidays of the season. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. Germanic Neopaganism has adopted the pre-Christian festival, as have some other non-Christian religions, such as Wicca.


Zagmuk, Sacaea (Ancient Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Babylonia)

Adapting the Egyptian Osiris celebrations, the Babylonians held the annual renewal or new year celebration, the Zagmuk Festival. It lasted 10 days, overlapping either the winter solstice or vernal equinox in its center peak. It was a festival held in observation of the sun god Marduk's battle over darkness. The Babylonians held both land and river parades. Sacaea, as Berossus referred to it, had festivals characterized with a subversion of order leading up to the new year. Masters and slaves interchanged, a mock king was crowned and masquerades clogged the streets. This has been a suggested precursor to the Festival of Kronos, Saturnalia and possibly Purim.[35][36]

Ziemassvētki (Latvia, Baltic states, Romuva)

In ancient Latvia, Ziemassvētki, meaning winter festival, was celebrated on December 21 as one of the two most important holidays, the other being Jāņi. Ziemassvētki celebrated the birth of Dievs, the highest god of Latvian mythology. The two weeks before Ziemassvetki are called Veļu laiks, the "season of ghosts."
During the festival, candles were lit for Dieviņš and a fire kept burning until the end, when its extinguishing signaled an end to the unhappiness of the previous year. During the ensuing feast, a space at the table was reserved for Ghosts, who was said to arrive on a sleigh. During the feast, certain foods were always eaten: bread, beans, peas, pork and pig snout and feet. Carolers (Budeļi) went door to door singing songs and eating from many different houses. The holiday was later adapted by Christians in the middle ages. It is now celebrated on the December 24, 25 and 26 and largely recognized as both a Christian and secular cultural observance. Lithuanians of the Romuva religion continue to celebrate a variant of the original polytheistic holiday.



The Mayan calender according to Wikipedia.

Maya calendar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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The Maya calendar is a system of calendars used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and in many modern communities in highland Guatemala[1] and in Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.[2]
The essentials of the Maya calendar are based upon a system which had been in common use throughout the region, dating back to at least the 5th century BCE. It shares many aspects with calendars employed by other earlier Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Zapotec and Olmec, and contemporary or later ones such as the Mixtec and Aztec calendars.[3] Although the Mesoamerican calendar did not originate with the Maya, their subsequent extensions and refinements of it were the most sophisticated.[citation needed] Along with those of the Aztecs, the Maya calendars are the best-documented and most completely understood.[citation needed]
By the Maya mythological tradition, as documented in Colonial Yucatec accounts and reconstructed from Late Classic and Postclassic inscriptions, the deity Itzamna is frequently credited with bringing the knowledge of the calendar system to the ancestral Maya, along with writing in general and other foundational aspects of Maya culture.[4]



The Maya calendar consists of several cycles or counts of different lengths. The 260-day count is known to scholars as the Tzolkin, or Tzolk'in.[5] The Tzolkin was combined with a 365-day vague solar year known as the Haab' to form a synchronized cycle lasting for 52 Haab', called the Calendar Round. Smaller cycles of 13 days, the trecena, and 20 days, the veintena, were important components of both cycles. The Calendar Round is still in use by many groups in the Guatemalan highlands.[6]
A different calendar was used to track longer periods of time, and for the inscription of calendar dates (i.e., identifying when one event occurred in relation to others). This is the Long Count. It is a count of days since a mythological starting-point.[7] According to the correlation between the Long Count and Western calendars accepted by the great majority of Maya researchers (known as the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson, or GMT, correlation), this starting-point is equivalent to August 11, 3114 BCE in the proleptic Gregorian calendar or 6 September in the Julian calendar (−3113 astronomical). The GMT correlation was chosen by John Eric Sydney Thompson in 1935 on the basis of earlier correlations by Joseph Goodman in 1905 (August 11), Juan Martínez Hernández in 1926 (August 12), and Thompson himself in 1927 (August 13).[8][9] By its linear nature, the Long Count was capable of being extended to refer to any date far into the past or future. This calendar involved the use of a positional notation system, in which each position signified an increasing multiple of the number of days. The Maya numeral system was essentially vigesimal (i.e., base-20), and each unit of a given position represented 20 times the unit of the position which preceded it. An important exception was made for the second-order place value, which instead represented 18 × 20, or 360 days, more closely approximating the solar year than would 20 × 20 = 400 days. It should be noted however that the cycles of the Long Count are independent of the solar year.
Many Maya Long Count inscriptions contain a supplementary series, which provides information on the lunar phase, number of the current lunation in a series of six and which of the nine Lords of the Night rules.
A 584-day Venus cycle was also maintained, which tracked the heliacal risings of Venus as the morning and evening stars. Many events in this cycle were seen as being astrologically inauspicious and baleful, and occasionally warfare was astrologically timed to coincide with stages in this cycle.
Less-prevalent or poorly understood cycles, combinations and calendar progressions were also tracked. An 819-day Count is attested in a few inscriptions. Repeating sets of 9 days (see below "Nine lords of the night")[10] associated with different groups of deities, animals, and other significant concepts are also known.

Maya concepts of time

With the development of the place-notational Long Count calendar (believed to have been inherited from other Mesoamerican cultures), the Maya had an elegant system with which events could be recorded in a linear relationship to one another, and also with respect to the calendar ("linear time") itself. In theory, this system could readily be extended to delineate any length of time desired, by simply adding to the number of higher-order place markers used (and thereby generating an ever-increasing sequence of day-multiples, each day in the sequence uniquely identified by its Long Count number). In practice, most Maya Long Count inscriptions confine themselves to noting only the first five coefficients in this system (a b'ak'tun-count), since this was more than adequate to express any historical or current date (20 b'ak'tuns cover 7,885 solar years). Even so, example inscriptions exist which noted or implied lengthier sequences, indicating that the Maya well understood a linear (past-present-future) conception of time.
However, and in common with other Mesoamerican societies, the repetition of the various calendric cycles, the natural cycles of observable phenomena, and the recurrence and renewal of death-rebirth imagery in their mythological traditions were important influences upon Maya societies. This conceptual view, in which the "cyclical nature" of time is highlighted, was a pre-eminent one, and many rituals were concerned with the completion and re-occurrences of various cycles. As the particular calendric configurations were once again repeated, so too were the "supernatural" influences with which they were associated. Thus it was held that particular calendar configurations had a specific "character" to them, which would influence events on days exhibiting that configuration. Divinations could then be made from the auguries associated with a certain configuration, since events taking place on some future date would be subject to the same influences as its corresponding previous cycle dates. Events and ceremonies would be timed to coincide with auspicious dates, and avoid inauspicious ones.[11]
The completion of significant calendar cycles ("period endings"), such as a k'atun-cycle, were often marked by the erection and dedication of specific monuments (mostly stela inscriptions, but sometimes twin-pyramid complexes such as those in Tikal and Yaxha), commemorating the completion, accompanied by dedicatory ceremonies.
A cyclical interpretation is also noted in Maya creation accounts, in which the present world and the humans in it were preceded by other worlds (one to five others, depending on the tradition) which were fashioned in various forms by the gods, but subsequently destroyed. The present world also had a tenuous existence, requiring the supplication and offerings of periodic sacrifice to maintain the balance of continuing existence. Similar themes are found in the creation accounts of other Mesoamerican societies.[12]


The tzolk'in (in modern Maya orthography; also commonly written tzolkin) is the name commonly employed by Mayanist researchers for the Maya Sacred Round or 260-day calendar. The word tzolk'in is a neologism coined in Yucatec Maya, to mean "count of days" (Coe 1992). The various names of this calendar as used by precolumbian Maya peoples are still debated by scholars. The Aztec calendar equivalent was called Tonalpohualli, in the Nahuatl language.
The tzolk'in calendar combines twenty day names with the thirteen numbers of the trecena cycle to produce 260 unique days. It is used to determine the time of religious and ceremonial events and for divination. Each successive day is numbered from 1 up to 13 and then starting again at 1. Separately from this, every day is given a name in sequence from a list of 20 day names:
Tzolk'in calendar: named days and associated glyphs
Num. 1
Name 2
example 3
16th C.
Yucatec 4
Classic Maya 5

Num. 1
Name 2
example 3
16th C.
Yucatec 4
Classic Maya 5
01 Imix' MAYA-g-log-cal-D01-Imix.png Imix Imix (?) / Ha' (?) 11 Chuwen MAYA-g-log-cal-D11-Chuwen.png Chuen (unknown)
02 Ik' MAYA-g-log-cal-D02-Ik.png Ik Ik' 12 Eb' MAYA-g-log-cal-D12-Eb.png Eb (unknown)
03 Ak'b'al MAYA-g-log-cal-D03-Akbal.png Akbal Ak'b'al (?) 13 B'en MAYA-g-log-cal-D13-Ben.png Ben C'klab
04 K'an MAYA-g-log-cal-D04-Kan.png Kan K'an (?) 14 Ix MAYA-g-log-cal-D14-Ix.png Ix Hix (?)
05 Chikchan MAYA-g-log-cal-D05-Chikchan.png Chicchan (unknown) 15 Men MAYA-g-log-cal-D15-Men.png Men (unknown)
06 Kimi MAYA-g-log-cal-D06-Kimi.png Cimi Cham (?) 16 K'ib' MAYA-g-log-cal-D16-Kib.png Cib (unknown)
07 Manik' MAYA-g-log-cal-D07-Manik.png Manik Manich' (?) 17 Kab'an MAYA-g-log-cal-D17-Kaban.png Caban Chab' (?)
08 Lamat MAYA-g-log-cal-D08-Lamat.png Lamat Ek' (?) 18 Etz'nab' MAYA-g-log-cal-D18-Etznab.png Etznab (unknown)
09 Muluk MAYA-g-log-cal-D09-Muluk.png Muluc (unknown) 19 Kawak MAYA-g-log-cal-D19-Kawak.png Cauac (unknown)
10 Ok MAYA-g-log-cal-D10-Ok.png Oc (unknown) 20 Ajaw MAYA-g-log-cal-D20-Ajaw.png Ahau Ajaw
  1. The sequence number of the named day in the Tzolk'in calendar
  2. Day name, in the standardized and revised orthography of the Guatemalan Academia de Lenguas Mayas[5]
  3. An example glyph (logogram) for the named day. Note that for most of these several different forms are recorded; the ones shown here are typical of carved monumental inscriptions (these are "cartouche" versions)
  4. Day name, as recorded from 16th century Yukatek Maya accounts, principally Diego de Landa; this orthography has (until recently) been widely used
  5. In most cases, the actual day name as spoken in the time of the Classic Period (ca. 200–900) when most inscriptions were made is not known. The versions given here (in Classic Maya, the main language of the inscriptions) are reconstructed on the basis of phonological evidence, if available; a '?' symbol indicates the reconstruction is tentative.[13]
Some systems started the count with 1 Imix', followed by 2 Ik', 3 Ak'b'al, etc. up to 13 B'en. The trecena day numbers then start again at 1 while the named-day sequence continues onwards, so the next days in the sequence are 1 Ix, 2 Men, 3 K'ib', 4 Kab'an, 5 Etz'nab', 6 Kawak, and 7 Ajaw. With all twenty named days used, these now began to repeat the cycle while the number sequence continues, so the next day after 7 Ajaw is 8 Imix'. The repetition of these interlocking 13- and 20-day cycles therefore takes 260 days to complete (that is, for every possible combination of number/named day to occur once).

Origin of the Tzolk'in

The exact origin of the Tzolk'in is not known, but there are several theories.
  • One theory is that the calendar came from mathematical operations based on the numbers thirteen and twenty, which were important numbers to the Maya.[citation needed] The numbers multiplied together equal 260.
  • Another theory is that the 260-day period came from the length of human pregnancy. This is close to the average number of days between the first missed menstrual period and birth, unlike Naegele's rule which is 40 weeks (280 days) between the last menstrual period and birth. It is postulated that midwives originally developed the calendar to predict babies' expected birth dates. The deity Ix Chel is thus of particular interest due to her mythic relation to the calendar.[citation needed]
  • A third theory comes from understanding of astronomy, geography and archaeology. The mesoamerican calendar probably originated with the Olmecs, and a settlement existed at Izapa, in southeast Chiapas Mexico, before 1200 BC. There, at a latitude of about 15° N, the Sun passes through zenith twice a year, and there are 260 days between zenithal passages. Gnomons (used generally for observing the path of the Sun and in particular zenithal passages) were found at this and other sites.[14]
  • A fourth theory is that the calendar is based on agriculture. From planting to harvest is approximately 260 days.[citation needed]


Haab' months: names and glyphs[15] in sequence
Hieroglyph Meaning of glyph

Hieroglyph Meaning of glyph
1 Pop Pop
10 Yax Yax green[17]
2 Wo' Wo
11 Sak' Sak white [17]
3 Sip Sip
12 Keh Keh red [17]
4 Sotz' Sotz'
13 Mak Mak
5 Sek Sek
14 K'ank'in K'ank'in
6 Xul Xul
15 Muwan' Muan
7 Yaxk'in' Yaxk'in
16 Pax Pax |
8 Mol Mol
17 K'ayab K'ayab
9 Ch'en Ch'en black[17] 18 Kumk'u Kumk'u

19 Wayeb' Wayeb five unlucky days
The Haab' was the Maya solar calendar made up of eighteen months of twenty days each plus a period of five days ("nameless days") at the end of the year known as Wayeb' (or Uayeb in 16th C. orthography). The five days of Wayeb', were thought to be a dangerous time. Foster (2002) writes, "During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters." To ward off these evil spirits, the Maya had customs and rituals they practiced during Wayeb'. For example, people avoided leaving their houses and washing or combing their hair. Bricker (1982) estimates that the Haab' was first used around 550 BC with a starting point of the winter solstice.[18]
The Haab' month names are known today by their corresponding names in colonial-era Yukatek Maya, as transcribed by 16th century sources (in particular, Diego de Landa and books such as the Chilam Balam of Chumayel). Phonemic analyses of Haab' glyph names in pre-Columbian Maya inscriptions have demonstrated that the names for these twenty-day periods varied considerably from region to region and from period to period, reflecting differences in the base language(s) and usage in the Classic and Postclassic eras predating their recording by Spanish sources.[19]
Each day in the Haab' calendar was identified by a day number in the month followed by the name of the month. Day numbers began with a glyph translated as the "seating of" a named month, which is usually regarded as day 0 of that month, although a minority treat it as day 20 of the month preceding the named month. In the latter case, the seating of Pop is day 5 of Wayeb'. For the majority, the first day of the year was 0 Pop (the seating of Pop). This was followed by 1 Pop, 2 Pop as far as 19 Pop then 0 Wo, 1 Wo and so on.
As a calendar for keeping track of the seasons, the Haab' was a bit inaccurate, since it treated the year as having exactly 365 days, and ignored the extra quarter day (approximately) in the actual tropical year. This meant that the seasons moved with respect to the calendar year by a quarter day each year, so that the calendar months named after particular seasons no longer corresponded to these seasons after a few centuries. The Haab' is equivalent to the wandering 365-day year of the ancient Egyptians.

Calendar Round

A Calendar Round date is a date that gives both the Tzolk'in and Haab'. This date will repeat after 52 Haab' years or 18,980 days, a Calendar Round. For example, the current creation started on 4 Ahau 8 Kumk'u. When this date recurs it is known as a Calendar Round completion.
Arithmetically, the duration of the Calendar Round can be explained in various ways. One way is to consider that the least common multiple of 260 and 365 is 18980 (73 X 260 Tzolk’in days equalling 52 X 365 Haab’ days).[20]
Not every possible combination of Tzolk'in and Haab' can occur. For Tzolk'in days Imix, Kimi, Chwen and Kib', the Haab' day can only be 4, 9, 14 or 19; for Ik', Manik', Eb' and Kab'an, the Haab' day can only be 0, 5, 10 or 15; for Akb'al', Lamat, B'en and Etz'nab', the Haab' day can only be 1, 6, 11 or 16; for K'an, Muluk, Ix and Kawak, the Haab' day can only be 2, 7, 12 or 17; and for Chikchan, Ok, Men and Ajaw, the Haab' day can only be 3, 8, 13 or 18.

Year Bearer

A "Year Bearer" is a Tzolk'in day name that occurs on the first day of the Haab'. If the first day of the Haab' is 0 Pop, then each 0 Pop will coincide with a Tzolk'in date, for example, 1 Ik'  0 Pop. Since there are twenty Tzolk'in day names and the Haab' year has 365 days (20*18 + 5), the Tzolk'in name for each succeeding Haab' zero day will be incremented by 5 in the cycle of day names like this:
1 Ik'   0 Pop
2 Manik'   0 Pop
3 Eb'   0 Pop
4 Kab'an   0 Pop
5 Ik'   0 Pop...
Only these four of the Tzolk'in day names can coincide with 0 Pop, and these four are called the "Year Bearers".
"Year Bearer" literally translates a Mayan concept.[21] Its importance resides in two facts. For one, the four years headed by the Year Bearers are named after them and share their characteristics; therefore, they also have their own prognostications and patron deities.[22] Moreover, since the Year Bearers are geographically identified with boundary markers or mountains, they help define the local community.[23]
The classic system of Year Bearers described above is found at Tikal and in the Dresden Codex. During the Late Classic period a different set of Year Bearers was in use in Campeche. In this system, the Year Bearers were the Tzolk'in that coincided with 1 Pop. These were Ak'b'al, Lamat, B'en and Edz'nab. During the Post-Classic period in Yucatán a third system was in use. In this system the Year Bearers were the days that coincided with 2 Pop: K'an, Muluc, Ix and Kawak. This system is found in the Chronicle of Oxkutzcab. In addition, just before the Spanish conquest in Mayapan the Maya began to number the days of the Haab' from 1 to 20. In this system the Year Bearers are the same as in the 1 Pop - Campeche system. The Classic Year Bearer system is still in use in the Guatemalan highlands[24] and in Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.[25]

Long Count

East side of stela C, Quirigua with the mythical creation date of 13 baktuns, 0 katuns, 0 tuns, 0 uinals, 0 kins, 4 Ahau 8 Cumku - August 11, 3114 BCE in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.
Since Calendar Round dates repeat every 18,980 days, approximately 52 solar years, the cycle repeats roughly once each lifetime, so a more refined method of dating was needed if history was to be recorded accurately. To specify dates over periods longer than 52 years, Mesoamericans used the Long Count calendar.
The Maya name for a day was k'in. Twenty of these k'ins are known as a winal or uinal. Eighteen winals make one tun. Twenty tuns are known as a k'atun. Twenty k'atuns make a b'ak'tun.
The Long Count calendar identifies a date by counting the number of days from the Mayan creation date 4 Ahaw, 8 Kumk'u (August 11, 3114 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar or September 6 in the Julian calendar). But instead of using a base-10 (decimal) scheme like Western numbering, the Long Count days were tallied in a modified base-20 scheme. Thus is equal to 25, and is equal to 40. As the winal unit resets after only counting to 18, the Long Count consistently uses base-20 only if the tun is considered the primary unit of measurement, not the k'in; with the k'in and winal units being the number of days in the tun. The Long Count represents 360 days, rather than the 400 in a purely base-20 (vigesimal) count.
There are also four rarely used higher-order cycles: piktun, kalabtun, k'inchiltun, and alautun.
Since the Long Count dates are unambiguous, the Long Count was particularly well suited to use on monuments. The monumental inscriptions would not only include the 5 digits of the Long Count, but would also include the two tzolk'in characters followed by the two haab' characters.
Misinterpretation of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar was the basis for a popular belief that a cataclysm would take place on December 21, 2012. December 21, 2012 was simply the day that the calendar went to the next b'ak'tun, at Long Count The date on which the calendar will go to the next piktun (a complete series of 20 b'ak'tuns), at Long Count, will be on October 13, 4772.
Sandra Noble, executive director of the Mesoamerican research organization Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI), notes that "for the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle". She considers the portrayal of December 2012 as a doomsday or cosmic-shift event to be "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."[26]
Table of Long Count units
Long Count
Long Count
Days Approximate
Solar Years
1 K'in 1
1 Winal 20 K'in 20
1 Tun 18 Winal 360 1
1 K'atun 20 Tun 7,200 20
1 B'ak'tun 20 K'atun 144,000 394
1 Piktun 20 B'ak'tun 2,880,000 7,885
1 Kalabtun 20 Piktun 57,600,000 157,704
1 K'inchiltun 20 Kalabtun 1,152,000,000 3,154,071
1 Alautun 20 K'inchiltun 23,040,000,000 63,081,429

Supplementary Series

Many Classic period inscriptions include a series of glyphs known as the Supplementary Series. The operation of this series was largely worked out by John E. Teeple (1874–1931). The Supplementary Series most commonly consists of the following elements:

Lords of the Night

Each night was ruled by one of the nine lords of the underworld. This nine day-cycle was usually written as two glyphs: a glyph that referred to the Nine Lords as a group, followed by a glyph for the lord that would rule the next night.

Lunar Series

A lunar Series generally is written as five glyphs that provide information about the current lunation, the number of the lunation in a series of six, the current ruling lunar deity and the length of the current lunation.

Moon age

The Maya counted the number of days in the current lunation. They used two systems for the zero date of the lunar cycle: either the first night they could see the thin crescent moon or the first morning when they could not see the waning moon.[27] The age of the moon was depicted by a set of glyphs that mayanists coined glyphs D and E:
  • A new moon glyph was used for day zero in the lunar cycle.
  • D glyphs were used for lunar ages for days 1 through 19, with the number of days that had passed from the new moon accompanied by a glyph that resembled a hand[citation needed].
  • For lunar ages 20 to 30, an E glyph was used, with the number of days from 20.

Lunation number and lunar deity

The Maya counted the lunation in a cycle of six, numbered zero through 5. Each one was ruled by one of the six Lunar Deities. This was written as two glyphs: a glyph for the completed lunation in the lunar count with a coefficient of 0 through 5 and a glyph for the lunar deity that ruled the current lunation. Teeple found that Quirigua Stela E ( is lunar deity 2 and that most other inscriptions use this same moon number. It is an interesting date because it was a k'atun completion and a solar eclipse was visible in the Maya area two days later on the first unlucky day of Wayeb'.

Lunation length

The length of the lunar month is 29.53059 days so if you count the number of days in a lunation it will be either 29 or 30 days. The maya wrote whether the lunar month was 29 or 30 days as two glyphs: a glyph for lunation length followed by either a glyph made up of a moon glyph over a bundle with a suffix of 19 for a 29 day lunation or a moon glyph with a suffix of 10 for a 30 day lunation.

Short Count

In the kingdoms of Postclassic Yucatán, the linear Long Count notation fell into disuse and gave way to a cyclical Short Count of 13 k'atuns (or 260 tuns), in which each k'atun was named after its concluding day, Ahau ('Lord'). 1 Imix was selected as the recurrent 'first day' of the cycle, corresponding to 1 Cipactli in the Aztec day count. The cycle was counted from katun 11 Ahau to katun 13 Ahau, with the coefficients of the katuns' concluding days running in the order 11 – 9 – 7 – 5 – 3 – 1 – 12 – 10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2 – 13 Ahau (since a division of 20 × 360 days by 13 falls 2 days short). The concluding day 13 Ahau was followed by the re-entering first day 1 Imix. This is the system as found in the colonial Books of Chilam Balam. In characteristic Mesoamerican fashion, these books project the cycle onto the landscape, with 13 Ahauob 'Lordships' dividing the land of Yucatán into 13 'kingdoms'.[28]

Venus cycle

Another important calendar for the Maya was the Venus cycle. The Maya kings had skilled astronomers who could calculate the Venus cycle with great accuracy. There are six pages in the Postclassic Dresden Codex devoted to the accurate calculation of the heliacal rising of Venus. The Maya were able to achieve such accuracy by careful observation over many years. Venus was often referred to as both "The Morning Star" and "The Evening Star" because of its visibility during both times. This makes Venus unique. There are various theories as to why the Venus cycle was especially important for the Maya. Across Mesoamerica, Venus was often depicted as "defeating" the Sun and the Moon, perhaps because of its persistent visibility after transitions from day-into-night (and vice-versa). Most scholars agree that Venus was associated with war and that the Maya used it to divine good times (called electional astrology) for their coronations and wars. Maya rulers planned for wars to begin when Venus rose.

See also