© Suzanne Barbezat
In the Maya calendar, the date December 21, 2012 corresponds to 22.214.171.124.0, or 4 Ahau 3 Kankin. This is the end of a cycle of 13 baktuns (cycles of roughly 400 years) which began on August 11, 3114 BC. Monument 6 from the archaeological site El Tortuguero in the Mexican state of Tabasco mentions this date. The monument is in fragments but it's been patched together, and although interpretations of the inscription on the monument vary, it is generally thought that it refers to the god Bolon Yokte K'uh, and says that he will descend on the date in question.
Popular belief has it that the Maya prophesied that the world would end with the end of the calendar cycle, but there are no known Maya inscriptions that state this explicitly, and modern-day Mayas dispute the theory. Others believe that the date will usher in a new chapter in human history, one marked by a higher spiritual consciousness.
I'm not expecting the world to end, but I will be at Chichen Itza on the big day, eager to see if anything spectacular occurs. Follow me on Twitter @mexicoguide to find out if anything monumental happens. If any Maya gods make an appearance, I'll be sure to post a photo.