Christmas in Nicaragua may lack snow and evergreen trees, but the people of Nicaragua still celebrate in great measure with their families. Leading up to Christmas, Catholics in Nicaragua celebrate La Purisma and La Griteria in honor of Mary. They express gratefulness for her purity and humble role with parades, tributes, and celebrations in the streets of large cities.
Next comes Las Posadas. Churches in the U.S. often have a Nativity play, but what if it lasted 9 days? During Las Posadas, community members representative of Mary and Joseph travel from home to home, being refused lodging until the ninth day, when they are welcomed to an inn and there is a great celebration. During this time, whole communities come together to put on or watch the play, which recognizes the hardship of Mary’s pregnancy and the miracle of birth.
Christmas Eve is especially significant in Nicaragua. It is celebrated with a family dinner, the giving of small gifts like fruits or candies, and fireworks at midnight to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Christmas is a day of rest after all the celebration and festivities with family and neighbors the night before.
New Year’s in Nicaragua can be understood as a hybrid of New Year’s and Thanksgiving here in the United States. Families gather for dinner to give thanks for blessings in the past year and toast to the year ahead.
Of course, there is food, family, and fireworks, but another unique tradition is a part of Nicaragua’s New Year; when translating student letters, I read multiple students talking about “El Hombre Viejo.” I was at first concerned and confused about this “old man,” because the students enthusiastically described him being at the center of a bonfire! However, after some research, I found that “El Hombre Viejo” is not an old man, but a straw doll (like a scarecrow) dressed in old clothes who represents the past year. Communities have a bonfire with the straw doll to express the idea of “out with the old, and in with the new!”
Many of these grand celebrations are enjoyed in the cities, but in Rainbow’s remote villages, holidays are less decorative. Some families still give small gifts, like fruits, to children for Christmas, and El Hombre Viejo is a tradition in some communities. Even without the packaging and parades, villages are filled with family love and joy around the holidays.
This Christmas, cherish your blessings and find a way to share what you have been generously given. Merry Christmas from Rainbow Network!