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Celebrating the Shortest Day of the Year

For most, the arrival of the winter solstice on December 21st, the shortest and darkest day of the year, leaves little to celebrate. With, of course, the exception of the upcoming holidays and the promises of a new year, there isn’t much to look forward to other than colder weather and reduced hours of sunlight. However, for some, the winter solstice marks a time of renewal and a period in the yearly calendar that deserves both recognition and honor.

The Mayan Calendar and the Winter Solstice

For the ancient Maya, the winter solstice, whose date varies each year from December 20th to 23rd, represents the beginning of a brighter and warmer future. As a culture who studied the sun’s movements and the constellations with great precision, they knew that the winter solstice was the end of a cycle and, from that point on, the days could only get longer and eventually the temperatures would rise again.

Likewise, it is the time of year when the sun appears as though it has paused in its procession across the horizon, setting upon the exact same spot for three days before moving in the opposite direction. For these reasons, among others, the Maya celebrated both the winter and summer solstice as well as the equinoxes, building temples where the rising and setting of the sun could be observed for scientific and spiritual reasons.


Mayan Magic for Club Caribe Visitors

Gracing the Caribbean coast of Mexico is a myriad of majestic Mayan ruins. Just five minutes from Villa del Palmar Cancun, el Meco archaeological site is a small yet enchanting example of Mayan architecture. If you are visiting during the holidays, you may wish to visit the ruins on December 21, when singing and a special meditation will take place to welcome the sunrise on the winter Solstice.

For Club Caribe guests willing to travel a little further, Chichen Itza, located approximately an hour and a half from Villa del Palmar Cancun, is one of the Mayan sites most visited by tourists each year. This special place was once noted to be one of “the best places to see and celebrate the winter solstice,” according to Smithsonian Magazine.

The ancient site left by the Mayan civilization is home to the temple of Kukulcán, a pyramid built between 300 and 450 AD. Together, the location of the rising sun and the precise positioning of the temple create magical sights on both the solstices and equinoxes each year. On December 21st, as the sun rises, our star appears to roll up one of the sides of the pyramid before completing its path through the winter sky.

This and other magical moments on the Mayan calendar have recently gained much recognition due to the belief that the Mayans had predicted the end of the world on the winter solstice in 2012.  Fortunately, what the Mayan calendar marked was only an end of a cycle, and the beginning of a new era for the human race.  Much like the beginning of the New Year, the Mayans celebrated this event and saw it as the start to a brighter future.

All throughout the Mayan Riviera, Mayan priests still light incense and offer prayers in honor of the winter solstice. Visiting the region during this time can be both educational and exciting and for those in the area on December 21st, its definitely a celebration you won’t want to miss.