5 days (ratherthan the true tropical year of365% days), consistingof eighteenmonthsof20days each, plus 5 extra nameless days onwhich it was extremelyunluckyto be born.Althoughthexihuitl(365-dayyear) mustalways have run ahead of the true year, themonthly ceremonies,which took place on a vastscale in capital cities like Tenochtitlan, wereclosely relatedto the agriculturalcycle and tothe alternation of dry and wet seasons. Fromthe terse accounts in the known sources there isno way to re-create the drama and magnificenceof these festivals, with their communal dances,music, costumes, and sacrifices. It is clear thatgreat celebrations, such as the springtimefeastsin honor of the flayed god, Xipe Totec, musthave involved tens of thousands of participantsin the streetsand plazas of the Aztec capital.As in the rest of Mesoamerica, thexihuitlpermutatedwith thetonalpohuallito producea calendarroundof fifty-twoyears."Each ofthese years was named for a particular day inthetonalpohualli,and only four of the twentyday signs-Reed,Flint, House, and Rabbit-could be "year bearers."Unlike the Maya, theAztecs lacked an unbrokenday-to-daycountfrom a single point in the past, so that all oftheir historyand mythologywas embeddedinthis recurrentfifty-two-yearcalendar, leadingto much confusionamong modern historianstryingto deal with the Aztec past: we are toldin which year an event occurred, but not inwhich calendarroundit fell.As the late Jacques Sou srelle has observed,"Atbottomthe ancient Mexicans had no realconfid~ncein the future,"}2and thisa~asnowhere so manifest as in the ceremoniesmark-ing the close of a calendarround(always in ayear2Reed, the sign of Tezcatlipoca).when asymbolic bundleof reeds representingthe oldyears would be buried like a dead mall. All thefires throughoutthe empire were extinguished,and the fire priestsgatheredon the Hill of theStar to watch if the Pleiades crossed the zenith.Ifthey did, the universewould continueforanothercalendarround;the new fire would bekindled in the breastof a slain captive, and thesmoldering embers carried out into the world.The Aztecs sharedthe color-directionconceptwith most other Mesoamerican groups and withmany NorthAmericantribes.Each of the fourdirectionshad a color (among the Aztecs, eastwas white; north, the direction of death, wasblack; west was red; and south blue).Therewere also a host of other associations.Thus eachcardinal point had a certainkind of tree, on thetop of which percheda specified bird.The sur-face of the earthhad a fifth"direction;'thecenter, the conceptuallocation of the three-stoned hearthin every woman's household andthe domain of Huehueteotl,the old fire god.