Did you know yesterday was a Holiday in Nicaragua? Any guesses which one? The last day of Hanukkah might be a good guess, but you’d be wrong. Nope, yesterday was La Purisima, the Immaculate Conception of Mary. But the real party was Tuesday night. Nicaragua has a special way of celebrating La Purisima which is known as La Griteria. Gritar means “to yell” in Spanish. So La Griteria is basically The yell-fest.
The Griteria is kind of like Halloween trick-or-treating combined with Christmas caroling. Wealthy or very devoted households set up altars to Mary in their homes or front porches. Then people go from house to house that have altars and sing carols with a Virgin Mary theme. After they sing a few carols, the host yells, “WHAT CAUSES SUCH HAPPINESS??” And the crowd of carolers yell back “THE CONCEPTION OF MARIA!” Then the hosts hand out little goodie bags – rice, crackers, candy, little plastic toys for the kids, little jars of oil – mostly practical things.
We didn’t really participate in the Griteria festivities Tuesday night, but yesterday we went to Leon for the day. The main Cathedral was holding a special Purisima Mass, and when Mass was over at noon the town exploded with loud fireworks and ringing bells. Leon loves the Griteria. They even celebrate a mid-year Griteria in August as a thank you to Mary for saving them from the Cerro Negro Volcano eruption in the 1940’s.
I have to admit, if someone asked what was causing me such happiness, I don’t think the conception of Mary would be the first thing to come to mind. But hey, a holiday is a holiday! A day off work and an excuse to get out of town and explore. I guess it did make me happy.