What Did the Mayans Do for Fun?

The ancient Maya are thought to have had very little leisure time, but dances at religious ceremonies were among their sources of fun and emotional relief. These dances involved everybody, regardless of class, although men and women typically danced separately. Celebratory dances would also have involved special food and drink.

Most Mayan leisure activities were bound up with notions of religious or ceremonial significance. Music, for instance, played an enormous role, with instruments including drums, maracas and tortoise shells, yet it was primarily an accompaniment to dance rituals and spiritual workings, rather than a form of entertainment.

Also known for its mythical symbolism is the best known game of the Maya, which was known as pitz. This was a ballgame, so in that respect it qualifies as a leisure activity, but it was intimately bound up with the complex of social, political and religious life as well. Pitz was played on I-shaped stone ball courts that were situated in the center of large Mayan cities as a display of their wealth. Although the precise rules are unknown, the game was played by two teams with a rubber ball that players were not permitted to touch with their hands or feet. Symbolically, the game was an homage to the mythical ball players, the Maya Hero Twins.