NASA had a whole website debunking doomsday predictions. Michigan officials closed 33 schools two days early for the holidays -- in part because of concerns that some unhinged individual might use end of the world rumors as an excuse to play Newtown copycat. All over the world, panicked people were hoarding supplies in preparation for the apocalypse. In Russia, the prime minister felt it necessary to make an announcement to quell public hysteria.

But after all of the hype, we're still here. The Last Days predictions turned out to be as legit as Oakland preacher Harold Camping's repeated false warnings about the coming of Judgment Day.

Why do so many of us keep falling for it? How did such bogus claims create global hysteria?

Performers gather to celebrate the "End of the World" in Times Square, New York December 21, 2012.  A 5,125-year cycle known in the Mayan
Performers gather to celebrate the "End of the World" in Times Square, New York December 21, 2012. A 5,125-year cycle known in the Mayan calendar as the Long Count comes to an end on Friday and has been widely interpreted by cultists, New Age disciples, and believers in the esoteric as heralding the destruction of the planet. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)

According to archeologists, doomsday predictions were based on a misinterpretation of the Maya calendar and some inscriptions carved on ruins in Guatemala. The calendar, which started Aug. 11, 3114 B.C., functions like an odometer. It rolls over every 5,125 years. It was scheduled to reset Dec. 21, 2012. Many people deduced that the end of this major time cycle would coincide with some kind of cataclysmic event.

Like the end of the world. Hollywood added to the hysteria with movies like "2012."

Only, there never any evidence that the Maya predicted doomsday.

Scientists also refuted claims Earth would be destroyed by another planet.

Yet that didn't stop the advertising and media juggernaut.

What you might not know from reading or watching most of the news coverage of the so-called Maya Prophecy, is that plenty of people around the world had an entirely different take on what the date Dec. 21, 2012, signifies.

Rather than the world going up in a ball of flames, they viewed the date as the start of a rebirth for humanity.

According to this New Age interpretation, this is a time for people everywhere to undergo a radical spiritual transformation before we destroy ourselves and the planet.

Joshua Brasted of New Orleans wears a sign reading "The End Is Near" as he attends the Cosmic Convergence Festival celebrating the end of the
Joshua Brasted of New Orleans wears a sign reading "The End Is Near" as he attends the Cosmic Convergence Festival celebrating the end of the Mayan calendar in New Orleans Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. The party celebrates the turn of a Mayan calendar cycle that began 25,600 years ago. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

From Oakland to Australia to India to Mexico, tens of millions of people gathered to celebrate a "planetary Birth Day event." Many more followed the ceremonies via the Internet.

A Who's Who in the New Age movement participated, from Deepak Chopra to Marianne Williamson.

Don Miguel Ruiz, the international bestselling author of the "Four Agreements, A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom" called the end of the Maya calendar "a great opportunity for us to return to love and an important time to recover our integrity.

"For those people in fear of this being the end of times, it's not true," Ruiz said. "It is just a shift in consciousness."

The goal of the "planetary birth day" events was to bring 100 million people around the world together to pray for and celebrate world peace. Attendees pledged to focus on making the world a better place not just for themselves but for everyone.

Words like "global unity," "peace" and "love" may sound airy-fairy to some.

But if I have a choice between throwing in my lot with the New Age crowd or the Last Days folks, I'll take door number one.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs -- or even if you have none at all -- you can't deny that many people suffer from low-level consciousness that is manifested in the turmoil that we see evidence of everywhere. In the never-ending shootings in our cities. The NRA's preposterous call for armed guards in every school after the Newtown massacre. The hatred and violence and lack of respect for human life and dignity all over the world.

Humanity is in far greater danger of perishing from its own self-destructive behavior than as a result of a rogue planet smashing into Earth.

Wishing you a blessed and safe Christmas.

Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Her column runs Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at tdrummond@bayareanewsgroup.com or follow her at Twitter.com/Tammerlin


People participate in a ritual in fron of Kukulkan temple in Chichen Itza, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. At the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen
People participate in a ritual in fron of Kukulkan temple in Chichen Itza, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. At the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, thousands chanted, danced and otherwise frolicked around ceremonial fires and pyramids to mark the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar. (AP Photo/Israel Leal)