Home > Nicaragua > The Virgin Mary, Halloween and Fireworks – La Gritería!

The Virgin Mary, Halloween and Fireworks – La Gritería!

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Celebrating La Gritería in Leon!

Last week, we are given Tuesday afternoon, and the whole Wednesday off.  Most employees received this time off to celebrate one of the biggest holidays in Nicaragua:  La Griteria (apologizes for the spelling, as I have no idea how the spanish accents on the laptop work)

This was quite a confusing festival for me, but through many conversations with people and research on the web, I think I have pieced together what this festival is all about.

Basically, La Griteria is a mix between celebrating the immaculate conception of Mary, Halloween, and fireworks.  The celebration is most popular in Leon, so I headed there with a few of my friends to check out the festivities.  When we arrived, there were people crowding the streets in front of houses getting candy, condiments, instant coffee, etc.  They were visiting shrines to Mary, and screaming at those giving them the treats.  Fireworks were being lit in the streets in front of people, families, cars, babies, trees, and anywhere else there was available pavement space.  (In my neighbourhood in Managua, it is like New Years everyday – I am hearing fireworks as I type this, and it is 4:15pm on a Wednesday afternoon – and it is not dark). 

 My friends and I, joined in on the festivities by going door to door.  People would ask us questions, and we would shout something

Inspecting my gift of coffee

 back that I did not understand.  Eventually, I just resorted to “No hablo espanol”.  Surprisingly, I received extra treats for being the foreigner who had no clue what was going on.  I received gifts of a special maize corn drink, brownies, salt, and instant coffee.  All staples of a typical Nica kitchen.

As the night wore on, we eventually headed to the beach just outside Leon.  As we drove towards the beach, the shower of fireworks turned on the car.  Driving up the main road exiting Leon, children, families, and others were aiming their fireworks at the car, and also timing the explosions as we drove past.  It seemed like scene right out of a war movie.

I quite enjoyed my first taste of a Nicaraguan festival.  As I am learning, there are many festivals that take place in Nicaragua.  In Masaya, they have 3 straight months of festivals every year, and every town has their own special celebration(s).

Here is the official explanation of “La Griteria”  taken from www.vianica.com :

“…in cities and towns people start exploding fireworks and firecrackers. In the biggest cities, it gets so noisy that any uninformed tourist might think that a war has just started in Nicaragua. At midnight, firecrackers explode once again (the same happens at 6AM and 12PM, but on a smaller scale).”

“During ‘La Gritería’ Virgen Mary is also venerated. It is a celebration used by people to thank the virgin for miracles and it takes place before the official day. Faithful people decorate altars in their houses in a place were it can be seen from the street. In some neighborhoods you can find more than three altars in just one block.”

“Then, at 6PM sharp, thousands of Nicaraguans go to the streets to ‘shout’ to the virgin (the word gritería could be translated as ‘shouting’), which means visiting each altar and singing to the virgin Maria. This is basically how it is done: people hang around in groups, stop at an altar, intone traditional songs (the same as in ‘La Purísima’), house owners give fruits, candies, toys, instruments to make noise, natural drinks, and other type of gifts; finally, they move on to another altar. House owners who have placed altars wait until another group comes to sing. This is how ‘La Gritería’ is celebrated, lasting until the house owners have no more gifts to give away or until streets have no more singers.”

Categories: Nicaragua
  1. Stephanie
    December 16, 2010 at 12:25

    Also, I really like the pic of you on the horse!

  2. Stephanie
    December 16, 2010 at 12:20

    This is really interesting.
    I’m very curious about the condiments as treats. What kind? Mayonnaise, hot sauce, ketchup? And why?

    • jon
      December 16, 2010 at 14:30

      Mostly salt, pepper, ketchup, various houtsehold condiments…not sure if they were treats, or if it was the tradition…sometimes i am so lost here..haha

  3. Veronika
    December 16, 2010 at 07:13

    Hehe, this reminds me the Chinese New Year..! Several days of endless fireworks, starting around 5am..

    • jon
      December 16, 2010 at 14:30

      Except I was the only chinese person there

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