Christmas in Nicaragua

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The Christmas season in Nicaragua begins on December 7 with La Purísima, the national holiday that marks the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It’s a day of parades, songsand such exuberance that the celebrations are called La Noche de Gritería — The Night of the Screams. Fireworks called Volcanoes, Red Bombs, Roman Candles, Butterflies and Bottle Rockets light up the sky all night. Other signs of the season are the Christmas goods in the markets (gifts, candles, seasonal food and material for making or adding to the nacimiento ), carols and the setting up of the family crèche. Houses are decorated with poinsettias (called Flores de Pastor  — shepherd’s flowers — in Nicaragua), colourful paper decorations and pictures of the Nativity. Nine days before Christmas a special series of prayers, a novena, is said.

 Christmas Eve sees the preparation of the dinner that will be served in the evening:  making nacatamal wrapped in plantain leaves take a lot of work. Chicken is also likely on the menu with rice and beans; fruit, biscuits, squash cooked in honey, leche de burra,  and rum punch follow. After dinner people go to church for the midnight mass; many will wait in line after the service to kiss the doll representiung the baby Jesus in the church’s crèche. At home again they will open presents brought by El Niño, the Christ Child, and place his image in the family Nativity scene.

January 6 is Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day. Children will have put out their shoes the previous with a little grass in them for the camels of the Magi and in the morning they will find treats and little presents. It’s also a day for god-parents to visit their god-children and to bring them a small gift. At night the Christmas season ends with yet more fireworks.

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