Christmas Season in Nicaragua is a celebration that everyone in the country looks forward to, and it begins early in the month of December. On December 7th, Nicaraguans celebrate “La gritería” to honor “La Purisima”, the purest and Immaculate Conception of Mary. This is a boisterous tradition paying homage to The Virgin Mary. For this event, thousands of people in the country, especially children, go from house to house singing Christmas hymns and carols of The Virgin Mary. The houses where the carolers perform rewards such singing and praises by offering treats like rosquillas (doughnuts), leche de burra (a candy called donkey’s milk), oranges, and other sweets.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Nicaraguans will flock to the streets to buy various items such as candles, lights, Nativity scenes and Nativity figurines, toys, pine trees, flower bouquets, and food. The children will carry the flower bouquets to The Alter of the Virgin. Then the whole family will buy a Christmas tree and lights, and decorate their homes together.
The actual Christmas festivity begins on December 16th, with the reenactment of Mary and Joseph trying to find lodging. Every home constructs a manger scene and the home where they find lodging will supply wine and food. From December 16th until the Christmas Eve Mass, prayer is held each evening in the home followed by refreshments and the singing of Christmas carols.
Christmas Eve dinner is something everyone in Nicaragua looks forward to, so on the morning of Christmas Eve, family members all work together in the preparation of dinner. Since the Nicaraguan Christmas celebration is mostly influenced by ancient Spanish traditions, the dinner menu traditionally consists of stuffed chicken, nacatamal, Valencian style rice, and freshly baked homemade bread. Spanish bizcocho, (sponge cake) is served for dessert. Extended members of the family and close friends are invited to each other’s homes to celebrate Christmas. The children all write Christmas wish lists to Papa Noel, (the Nicaraguan equivalent of Santa Claus), and ask him to bring them toys and gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Later that evening, church bells are rung to signify the start of Midnight Mass. Thousands will attend this Mass and once it is over, everyone enjoys Christmas dinner together. Christmas cards made of white are exchanged and everyone wishes each other "Feliz Navidad!”
On Christmas morning, families rise out of bed early and the kids rush to find gifts placed under the Christmas tree by Papa Noel. Christmas Day is celebrated with feasts, fireworks, fun and dancing. The main streets of the towns and cities are decorated and have loudspeakers playing Christmas carols. In small towns, there is an old custom of the Catholic Church to organize a parade or "procession". The priests will walk around the towns with performers who imitate various Biblical characters and reenact the birth and life of Jesus Christ. This parade is highly regarded by many in holy reverence.