Thursday, December 9, 2010

Immaculate Conception

One of the biggest holidays in Nicaragua is La Purísima, or Immaculate Conception Day, celebrated on December 8th. To understand how big this holiday is, you have to understand that Nicaraguans absolutely love the Virgin Mary. Mary is basically the patron saint of the country, the same way that the Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. La Purísima celebrates the event of Mary’s conception, which had to be pure so that she could go on to bear God’s child.

Purísima seems to me kind of like a mixture between Halloween and Christmas. The traditional way of celebrating it is that each family builds an elaborate altar to the Virgin Mary in their home. Then, groups of women and children go around visiting all of the altars. They do a call and response ritual and then receive a candy or sweets. I don’t know enough about Catholicism to know if there is a similar custom in the US, but I suspect there is not. What really gives it a Nicaraguan touch is that the tradition is called La Gritería, or The Shouting. As I’ve said before on this blog, Nicaraguans associate loud noise with joy. True to form, The Shouting is very loud and very joyful.

The call and response goes like this:

Quien causa tanta alegría? (Who causes so much happiness?)
La Concepción de María! (The conception of Mary!)

Por qué celebramos este día? (Why do we celebrate this day?)
La Concepción de María! (The conception of Mary!)

Dónde está María? (Where is Mary?)
Venida! (She is come!)

Dónde está Jesús? (Where is Jesús?)
Donde está María! (Where Mary is!)

María de Nicaragua! (Mary for Nicaragua!)
Nicaragua de María! (Nicaragua for Maria!)

As with any religious celebration, there is a lot of singing and praying. And fireworks. Lots and lots of fireworks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is a truly devoted people. :)