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Mayan Festival at National Museum of the American Indian Celebrates Bak’tun, Dispels Misconceptions About 12-21-12

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What NASA is debunking with science, indigenous groups are debunking with information about what the Mayans actually predicted. Which was nothing, except for the changing of a calendar page akin to flipping from December to January, or to the turning over of an odometer.

A misunderstanding of the Mayan calendar has sparked panic the world over, sending people from Russia to China to the U.S. into extremes of preparation frenzy or suicidal depression. Working on two fronts, scientists and indigenous experts have embarked on a common mission: to calm everyone down and convince them not to do anything rash in the face of the upcoming winter solstice. 

The passing of the Mayans’ Bak’tun 13, otherwise known as the end of the Long Count Calendar, is a cause for celebration rather than dismay, and this weekend the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) sets out to highlight just that. Bak’tun 13: A Guatemalan Celebration of Time, a free festival from December 14 through 16, will showcase dance performances, lectures, workshops for families and Guatemalan cuisine in the museum’s Mitsitam Café.

It will include a presentation on Saturday December 15, Maya from the Inside: The 13 Bak'tun as Challenge to the Western Mind?, a lecture by scholar Victor Montejo (Jakaltek Maya). His and other lectures will be webcast live at, and the museum is encouraging visitors to tweet their questions to @SmithsonianNMAI using the hashtag #MayaCalendar.

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The NMAI has also set up an educational website, Living Maya Time, that converts the apocalypse into a teaching moment. It features the voices of traditional Maya people talking about their history and contemporary culture.

“Much of the information available about the Maya calendar and the year 2012 is fraught with misconceptions and speculations about doomsday prophecies,” the site says in introducing the section “2012: Resetting the Count.” “Learn more about whether these prophecies have a scientific basis and hear Maya people’s opinions on 2012.”