Tuesday, December 7, 2010

La Griteria

Spanish for "the yelling." This is the night before what might be Catholic Nicaragua's most favorite holiday, La Purísima, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. There have been fireworks going off in the streets for the last nine days, but tonight is the big night.

Tim calls it the Supergroup of holidays, since we've noticed features of four major American holidays: Independence Day, Halloween, New Year's Eve, and Christmas. We spent a little time after dinner strolling around our neighborhood and observing the festivities. Before dinner we had noticed lines of people at the doorways of certain houses. It turns out that some houses have statues of Mary, often lit up or decorated -- one was in a really pretty flowering tree with a little spotlight shining on it. Groups of people (we saw a lot of what looked like extended families), some more organized than others, go from house to house. When they get to the house, they either go in or stand outside and sing songs addressed to Mary. The one we heard most often invoked "Sweet Mary" to "hear my voice" as the people in the house were handing out sweets. Some of the more organized groups had rhythm instruments, and lots of people had noisemakers.

In addition to the groups walking around singing (caroling), using noisemakers (a lot like NYE in the US), and getting sweets at houses (trick or treat, anyone?), there are also people, mostly boys and young men, setting off firecrackers and fireworks.

All in all, it's an exciting night. It seems that all Protestants avoid the holiday (or "are supposed to") because it's Catholic, and, well, centered on Mary, which remains a sticky doctrinal point. So, instead of the Immaculate Conception, the Protestant churches (at least, La Misión Cristiana) have Pastor's Appreciation Day tomorrow. I think I overheard two stories -- one of a man who was raised Protestant, whose Catholic cousins took pity on him when he was young and snuck him out for fireworks and sweets. The second was a pastor's wife who I assume was raised Catholic -- she was suggesting that the pastors' lunch we went to on Monday as part of the "Pastor's Day" celebrations should have a piñata next year. An older pastor jokingly responded that she was now feeling the cost of what it means to be a Protestant in this society.

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