Friday, Dec. 21 is the winter solsticethe shortest day of the year and the date that marks the onset of winter. And, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, it’s also the day the Mayan calendar ends, which many people believe translates to the end of the world. Happy holidays, eh?
This isn’t the first time people have predicted the end of days and braced for the apocalypse. Here are three instances featured in Good Old Days, My Ass: 665 Funny History Facts and Terrifying Truths About Yesterday by David A. Fryxell:
- Way back in 448, Moses of Crete, a rabbi, claimed to be the Messiah as predicted by Talmudic calculations and led his followers to the sea, which was supposed to part so they could reach Palestine. Having given away all their possessions, the rabbi’s followers cast themselves into the Mediterranean. Seeing them crash on the rocks or drown, the rabbi declined to follow and “suddenly disappeared,” leading some to conclude he had actually been “some malignant fiend” in human form.
- Then there were the astrological predictions that a 1524 planetary alignment in Pisces would produce an apocalypse. Germans built boats, including a three-story ark constructed by Count von Igleheim, and residents of port cities took refuge afloat. When doomsday arrived with only a light drizzle, angry crowds outside the ark stampeded, trampling hundreds, and stoned the count to death.
- In America, forerunners of today’s Seventh-Day Adventists, the Millerites, followed Baptist preacher William Miller, who concluded Christ would return in 1844. Another Millerite pegged it more precisely on Oct. 22, 1844, a day that came to be known as “the Great Disappointment.” Thousands of followers gave away their possessions and awaited the end. When Jesus didn’t appear, one wrote, “I lay prostrate for two days without any painsick with disappointment.” Even children in the streets would taunt the disappointed Millerites, saying, “Have you not gone up [to heaven]?”
For a look at more interesting and often funny history factsand terrifying truthsfrom the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, check out David’s book.
And if, by chance, the world is ending on Friday, what’s to stop you from indulging in another piece of homemade fudge washed down by a cup of eggnog? After all, it is the holiday season