As part of tradition, many folks enjoy spending the holidays with family and close friends. But spending the Holidays elsewhere can also be a great way to engage in and learn more about different cultures and their Holiday traditions.
Why Nicaragua For The Holidays?
Christmas Tree near the Cathedral of Granada - Photo Courtesy of Pinterest
The Dry Season in Nicaragua begins in November with sunny days, mild temperatures, and low humidity. Dry Season is the perfect time for exploring the colonial cities, beaches, volcanoes and nature reserves the country is so famous for. And because Nicaragua’s middle name is “Adventure Tourism”, it’s the ideal place to vacation in during December.
Christmas in Nicaragua
The Christmas Season in Nicaragua is a celebration that all Nicaraguans eagerly anticipate. The Catholic celebration takes place at the end of November and runs through most of December. It's celebrated with a ‘novena’ (nine days of prayer and devotion) and ‘La Griteria’ or 'La Purisima', which is a massive event held on December 7th in the streets of Nicaragua. This event is not part of Christmas per se, but it does warm people up for the season. During the Novena and Griteria, altars will be built, singing will occur, and gifts will be handed out.
The 'Purisima' Celebration Starts in Leon, with 'Gigantonas' parading
The Griteria, which takes place on the eve of 'La Purisima' on December 7th, is especially dear to the people of Leon, the birthplace of this celebration. The feast day starts exactly at 6 pm with fireworks around the Cathedral, followed by the dance of 'Gigantonas'. These are 8-9 ft tall figures of ladies wearing colorful dresses, which represent the Spanish upper-class ladies of centuries ago.
According to the Catholic calendar, La Purísima takes place on December 8th, and is a celebration to the ‘purest conception of Virgin Mary’. During La Purisma, thousands of people in the country, especially children, travel from house to house singing old traditional carols in her honor. The owners of houses where the Carolers perform offer a reward to the Carolers of traditional treats (la gorra), such as rosquillas (doughnuts), leche de burra (a candy called donkey’s milk), and many other seasonal delights.
You Must Try these Nicaraguan Traditional Sweets during 'La Griteria'
On December 16, the Christmas festivity actually begins. Every home will construct a manger scene and churches do a daily reenactment of Mary and Joseph on their quest to find lodging takes place. This is traditionally called “Posada”, meaning the home which serves as the inn where they found lodging. From December 16 until Christmas Eve Mass, prayer is held each evening in the home, followed by Christmas Carols being sung and refreshments.
For Christmas dinner, family members start early in the morning to prepare the traditional dinner of stuffed farm hen or chicken, or 'gallina rellena'. Other common foods during Christmas are nacatamal, Valencian style rice, and freshly baked homemade bread. Spanish bizcocho, or sponge cake, is served for dessert. Later in the evening, church bells will ring to signify the start of Midnight Mass, though few churches will celebrate it at actual midnight. And once Midnight Mass concludes, family members and friends will enjoy the Christmas dinner together.
Stuffed Chicken, One of Nicaragua's Christmas Meals - Photo by Azucena Maynar/Pinterest
On Christmas morning, kids will spring out of bed to see their gifts. However, in Nicaragua, parents usually tell their kids that their gifts were brought by Baby Jesus rather than Santa. Christmas Day is celebrated with feasts, fireworks, and dancing. There is an old custom of the Catholic Church to organize parades or “processions”. 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.
If you’d like to book your glorious Holiday in Nicaragua, click here.
For more information on traditional cuisines in Nicaragua, check out our blog “For All You Foodies Out There, Nicaragua Has Some Must Tries!”
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