¿Quién causa tanta alegría?
¡La Concepción de María!
The Christmas season is celebrated in a unique way here in Nicaragua. Lots of bombas (fireworks that don’t actually look like anything, just make a lot of noise), roasting pigs, small strands of Christmas lights, and La Purisima, which we celebrated on Saturday night.
The holiday is a Catholic celebration of the immaculate conception of Jesus, and is a cross between the ever amazing Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating and Christmas Eve carols. I didn’t quite know what I was in for, as last year during La Purisima, I was relaxing on the beach with some surf buddies in the midst of medical craziness. My host family knocked on my door Saturday evening and invited me to go ‘gritar’ (shouting) with them. I was told to bring a ‘saco’ (traditional Nica bags made of woven plastic) and off we went.
All over town, selected houses had spent the day decorating altars on the front porches or in side alleys. Each altar holds lots of plants, flowers, Christmas lights, a statue of Mary, and sometimes pictures of loved ones who have passed away. At one of my student’s houses, they had even taken woven reindeer and a wood cart to make a large Santa meets Mary display. Awesome.
We started about 6pm and managed to go to a couple houses before the crowds formed. But as you can see from the picture below, the crowds later came! At some of the houses we had to wait up to half an hour for a turn to go to the altar area and sing.
When it is your turn, you and your group of friends and family sing carols about Mary from a book that is available to buy around town. My family selected a variety of about 4 different ones and at each house we visited, we sang two of them. My host mom was nice enough to help me find the right page every time so I could attempt to sing with them!
After you have sung for a few minutes, you step away from the altar/display and approach the door of the family’s house, where you are handed, without fail, a present. It was ridiculous and incredible. I then understood what the saco was for. We visited about 10 different houses and I walked away with sugar cane, oranges, cookies, lollipops, fresco (fruit drinks in a bag), plastic cups and bowls, tupperware and my favorite, this awesome mug:
So here’s to the start of the Christmas season. My little strand of Christmas lights have been hung, I’m starting to buy a few gifts to send back home, Dad comes to visit soon. It will definitely be a different holiday season with not returning to the States, but a beautiful one nonetheless.