Some believe Friday is doomsday on the Mayan calendar; the Mayans don't

 At least the ones living in the city of Merida, Mexico, don't. Neither does anyone in the Mayan village of Yaxuna. They know the calendar their ancestors left them is about to absolve a key phase -- the end of an era and the heralding of a new one -- but they don't think we're all gonna die,according to CNN.

"It's an era. We are lucky to see how it ends," said wood carver Santos Esteban in Yaxuna, a sleepy village of fewer than 700 Mayans, located in a territory that once belonged to the ancient kingdom founded around 2000 B.C.

He feels it is a momentous occasion and is looking forward to the start of the new age. He is not afraid.

"Lots of people say it's the end of the world, but we don't believe that," he said.

People in his village will keep living much as they have, preferring hand-built, palm-thatch huts to concrete buildings and baking tortillas on an open flame.

For those less optimistic than the Mayans, an "official" website in the United States has collected links to all the doomsday articles and videos Internet users can consume.

December212012.com also offers tips on survival and advertisements for the needed gear -- from gas masks to first aid kits and hand-crank radios. Comments are welcome on its Facebook page, which has more than 14,000 likes, and website owner "John" from near Louisville, Kentucky, sends out tweets under the handle @December212012.

On the doomsday Facebook page -- in between gloomy superstitious links and user comments -- John has confessed that he does not really believe the world will end on Friday but thinks that a new era could dawn that may include some improvements for the world. That new era, however, might require a good bit of destruction as well.

"PLEASE PEOPLE. . . I'm begging you. Do not overreact or make any rash decisions regarding Dec 21st. Anyone who knows anything about the 2012 prophecies, including myself, does not believes that the world is going to end," the Facebook page says.

"I taught about economic collapse and how it actually looks on the ground," he said. "People want to act like it can't happen or doesn't happen, and it happens around the world. There are places on fire right now."

In true survivalist manner, Croft also teaches his family how to subsist on alternative sources of nourishment, such as algae, roasted mice and live earthworms.

The ancient people measured time in cycles called "baktuns" of 394 years each, and the winter solstice coming Friday marks the end of the 13th baktun. Some who study the clendar say the date for the end of the period is not Friday, but Sunday.

The Mayan calendar is based on the position of the heavenly bodies -- the sun, the moon and the stars -- and was meant to tell the Mayan people about agricultural and economic trends, said archeologist Alfredo Barrera.

NASA is also weighing in on the matter, with a post on its website declaring that the world will not end on Friday.

"It will be another winter solstice," NASA said. "The claims behind the end of the world quickly unravel when pinned down to the 2012 timeline."

If it's Saturday, and no major calamity has occurred, then relax and go celebrate the beginning of the 14th baktun with the Mayans.

Compiled by:Maysa Wassouf

World's Scariest Bridges

From sky-high suspension bridges to dilapidated rope bridges, these crossings aren’t for the meek.

Rotting wooden planks, held aloft by rusty bits of wire, stretch out in front of you. You reach for a railing to steady yourself, but all you find are two threadbare ropes. The howling wind blows the rickety footbridge from side to side. Somewhere below you lies the forest floor—you don’t even know how far.

All bridges serve a purpose, whether utilitarian or inspirational. And some of them, like MusouTsuribashi—this shaky, 50-year-old crossing in southern Japan—add a distinct element of fear. But you don’t have to be in a remote part of the world: scary bridges exist everywhere, in all shapes, sizes, and heights. And crossing over them can be the ultimate in adventure travel.

Surprisingly, not all of these bridges are old and dilapidated. Take the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. The wind here can reach speeds of 30 mph, leading to white-knuckled drives across its five-mile-long span. It can be so scary that some people simply won’t go. So the Mackinac Bridge Authority will drive your car for you…for free. In the past year, it has assisted almost 1,400 drivers—and plenty of similar programs exist around the country

Is this an irrational fear? Not necessarily. Gephyrophobia—the

fear of bridges—is an accepted psychological diagnosis. Dr. Michael R. Liebowitz, founder of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, told the New York Times that the fear of crossing bridges is very common (if not as well known as, say, the fear of flying). It also “carries a stigma,” says Liebowitz, even though bridges have been known to collapse, like the interstate highway bridge in downtown Minneapolis in 2007.

But unlike gephyrophobes, many courageous (or foolhardy) travelers seek out hair-raising bridges just for the thrill. The bridges along the route to Colombia’s National Archeological Park of Tierradentro are a good example. Though there are safer routes via bus from La Plata, some thrill-seekers choose to ride motorcycles over slippery bamboo crossings deep in the mountains, where one wrong move could mean plunging into a turbulent river.

H.SH

Beyonce Just Went To Another Level

 

We all know Beyoncé is a star. She’s arguably the biggest star of this era, able to influence millions with the drop of a hat or a sway of her hips. But now, she’s really on some next level , According to the Associated Press, she has been confirmed to perform at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

For a recording artist, this is the biggest honor you can reach, and it’s only built for true mega-watt individuals. So Taylor Swift, and any of these other cornball celebrities you see on magazine covers, please step off the curb and walk in the street. You are not worthy.

When Beyoncé steps on stage on Feb. 3, her impact will be two-fold. One, it will finally give audiences what they’ve asked for repeatedly, and that’s a contemporary artist. No shots at Madonna, The Rolling Stones or anybody that’s performed in recent years, but it’s 2012, fam. These people haven’t put out relevant music in eons and yet every year they’re propped up like they’re officially official.  Secondly, the Super Bowl needs more diversity. Beyoncé will be the first black woman to perform at the halftime show since Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate moment from ’04. There’s no excuse for eight years to have passed before another black woman got a chance. The NFL typically bows to its corporate check-writers in picking the performer (otherwise how can you explain The Who and Tom Petty getting over like this?), so it’s good that they’ve picked someone who actually warrants the selection.

As for Bey, with this on her resume, she’s almost getting to the point of being unstoppable. She’s one more classic album from legitimately barging into the GOAT argument. Detractors aside, her catalogue is powerful. One last thing: I’m assuming we’re gonna get a Jay-Z sighting on stage, too. He has his detractors as well, but, man, that’s a dude having one helluva year.

H.Sh

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours

 

Discover the real Middle-earth on the most picturesque private farmland near Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand, where you can visit the Hobbiton Movie Set from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy in a fascinating two-hour guided tour. The set has been completely rebuilt and will remain as it was seen in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. There are spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges from the rolling green hills of the movie set, which is still a working sheep and beef farm.As the Hobbiton Movie Set is located on a real New Zealand farm, we also offer you the opportunity to cuddle and bottle feed the pet lambs. You can relax and soak up the unique atmosphere with a great cup of coffee or a light meal in The Shires Rest Cafe, which is also available for functions, conferences or other occasions.

 

Nada Haj Khidr

How different countries celebrate Christmas?

It is interesting to see how different countries celebrate Christmas. We asked some of our friends to explain what happens in their countries.

This is what they told us:

Belgium

On 6th December Sinterklaas or Saint-Nicholas is celebrated, which is an entirely different holiday from Christmas. Santa Claus in Belgium is called de Kerstman or le Père Noël and he does come around on Christmas day to bring children presents. There are different cultures in Belgium, the Northern part being Vlaanderen (speaking a Dutch dialect), the Southern part being Wallonie (speaking a French dialect) and the Eastern part speaking German.

Small family presents are given at Christmas too, under the tree, or in stockings near the fire-place, to be found in the morning. Christmas breakfast is a special sweet bread called 'cougnou' or 'cougnolle' - the shape is supposed to be like baby Jesus. Some families will have another big meal on Christmas day.

Brazil

Father Christmas is called Papai Noel. Many Christmas customs are similar to USA or UK. For those who have enough money, a special Christmas meal will be chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork, fresh and dried fruits, often with beer. Poorer people will have chicken, rice and beans and will also drink beer and coke. For dessert people enjoy some Brazilian sweets Brigadeiro made of condensed milk and chocolate. Both rich and poor have Christmas trees. A poor person's Christmas tree is made of plastic or is just a dry tree branch. As we don't have snow in Brazil, poor people put cotton over their Christmas tree branch to simulate snow. Christmas time varies a lot from south to north region.

Finland

Finnish people believe that Father Christmas (Santa Claus) lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi, north of the Arctic Circle. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland. There is a even big tourist theme park called 'Christmas Land' in the north of Finland, near to where they say that Father Christmas lives. Everyone cleans their houses ready for the three holy days of Christmas - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Christmas Eve is very special, when people eat rice porridge and a sweet soup made from dried fruits. It´s eaten in the morning or at lunchtime. They will then decorate a spruce tree in the home. At mid-day, the 'Christmas peace declaration' is broadcast on radio and TV from the Finnish city of Turku by its Mayor. In the evening, a traditional Christmas dinner is eaten. The high moment! After that comes Santa Claus (if there are children) or the presents that are under the Christmas tree are opened. In some families where there are no small kids, the presents are not put under the tree, but collected to big sacks, which are carried near the front door. Then a family member might say, Did I heard sound of reindeers and bells... Or Did I hear Santa Claus... When they go to check, there are big sacks full of presents there. So it was Santa after all. Then people drink coffee and eat cakes, cookies and other sweet things. Enjoy present and play games. Small kids go to bed but others stay up late. Many families will visit cemeteries and grave-yards to place a candle onto the burial graves of family members.

Hungary

Susanna Denes, a Hungarian friend contributed the following:
Santa Clause (Winter-grandfather) (Tel-apo or Mikulas) comes on the 6th of December. Children should clean and put their shoes outside next to the door or window before they go to sleep. Next day candies and/or small toys appear in them in red bags. For children, who don't behave well, a golden birch placed next to the sweets, a symbol for spanking... (but don't worry, it is just for fun, and not for actual punishment.)
On 24th of December, children go to their relative or to the movies, because little Jesus brings the tree and the presents that evening to their house. It is customary to hang edible things on the tree, like golden wrapped assorted chocolates and meringues beside the glass balls, candles (real or electrical), and sparklers.
Families usually cook festive dinner for that night. An example would be fresh fish usually with rice or potatoes and home made pastries as dessert. After dinner, the tree would be viewed by the children for the first time. It was very exciting. Christmas songs are sung and then the gifts under the tree are shared.
Older children attend the midnight mass with their parents.Festive food is enjoyed on the second and third day too.

Portugal

People adhere to the tradition that Father Christmas brings presents to children on Christmas Eve. The presents are left under the Christmas tree or in shoes by the fireplace. A special Christmas meal of salted dry cod-fish with boiled potatoes is eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Sweden

The most important day is Christmas Eve. A special Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve - ham (pork), herring fish, and brown beans - and this is the time when families give presents to each other. Many people attend a church meeting early on Christmas Day.

United States

The USA is so multi-cultural that you will find many different ways of celebrating Christmas. All year long children are told to behave, or they will get coal in their stocking. On Christmas Eve, they hang highly stylized stockings on the mantle of the fireplace, then go to bed early so that they will find presents in the morning. They are told that at midnight Santa will come, bringing a huge bag of toys. He will come down through the chimney, leave candy in the stockings and presents under the Christmas tree (anything from a Pine or Fir to a Spruce), then 'plug one nostril' and shoot up through the chimney. Cookies are traditionally left for him, and a carrot is commonly left for Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer, very much a part of Christmas tradition (Santa will land on the roof with his sleigh and nine reindeer). On Christmas morning, things such as cinnamon rolls or coffee cake are served for breakfast, and for dinner there is typically ham (and occasionally regal plum pudding). That is it for celebration — Boxing Day is never celebrated, Epiphany is only celebrated by Catholics, and Advent not commonly celebrated. On the first Sunday following January 6, grandmothers tell again the story of the Magi who came to Jesus presenting their gifts following his birth. All the children are fondly remember leaving carrots and sugar for all of the reindeer, along the milk and cookies for Santa!

 

Butheina Alnounou