¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season with lots of love and cheer. Though most volunteers tend to go back to the states around the holidays, I chose to stay in Nicaragua. I have celebrated 22 Christmases/Hanukkahs/New Years in the US and I thought it'd be a nice change to see how a different culture celebrates the end of the December festivities.
Nicaragua is a religious country, with many Catholics and Evangelicals. Songs are sung throughout the churches, filling the streets with music. In the beginning of December, local Catholics celebrate "Purísima" and "La Gritería". During this time, Nicaraguans recognize and are joyous about the Virgin Mary and during "La Gritería", children go up and down the streets asking "¿Quién causa tanta alegria?" ("Who causes all of this happiness?") and receive candy and light fireworks from various neighbors--almost like trick or treating.
This is a big deal in the department of León, where a lot of tourists, volunteers and Nicaraguans tend to congregate, but I decided to take the high road and be a little more tranquila and pass the Purísima in Estelí. Fireworks were lit, the streets were full of merriment, and I was able to get a good night's sleep and head back to site the next day.
Later on, Nicaraguans have Christmas. The entire month of December (rather, starting in November), Nicaraguans decorate their houses with lights and Christmas trees. It made me smile seeing Papá Noel and snowmen decorations on Nica houses, even though the majority of the population have never seen snow! During Christmas, like in the United States, gifts are exchanged, people go to church, and eat LOTS of food. However, Nicaraguans tend to celebrate Christmas on the 24th, La Noche Buena.
During La Noche Buena, I went to visit my friend in Quilalí and his host family took us, some other volunteers and US Embassy friends to their family finca. We took a 20-minute bus ride on a dirt road, hiked 15 minutes to a river crossing, crossed the river on a panga (canoe), and proceeded to hike an extra hour and a half to the farm, where we were greeted with a hearty breakfast.
We hung out at the farm all day, rode horses, played with baby piglets, had a big lunch and made the trek back to Quilalí, where MORE food was waiting.
On the trails.
I want one!
Such small piglets! Hand for size comparison.
My horse, who I dubbed Floppy.
All the gringos!
Leading us to the highway.
Trudging thru the water on horseback.
After dinner, there was dancing, celebrating and lots of fun and at midnight, we set off fireworks to ring in Christmas day.
Sooooo tired, but festive!
Fireworks at midnight.
With another volunteer from Ocotal.
The day after Christmas, I returned to Jalapa for a few days before heading back out to the department of Matagalpa to spend New Year's Eve. Like Purísima, León is a popular place where many people go to ring in the new year, but wisely avoiding such crowds, my friend and I decided that we'd play the lowkey card and stay up north. I have only been to Matagalpa once, and that was to an ecotourist lodge called Selva Negra, but hadn't had the chance to check out what else the city had to offer.
Dijito, the resident rabbit of our hostel.
On New Year's Eve Day, my friend and I took a run thru the city and experience all the views it had to offer. Wow, was it beautiful! The entire time we were there, it was on and off sprinkling rain and perfect temperatures. I'm definitely jealous of all the volunteers who live there, especially coming from the Segovian heat!
Lots of steep hills!
View from a dirt trail we stumbled upon.
Looking down into the city from the hill we climbed.
At night, we went to a restaurant with some friends that we met at the hostel (one of which is from Colorado!) and counted down the New Year with them. Afterwards, we lit fireworks, sparklers and had some sparkling cider and a cigar to ring in 2013.
With our hostel friends.
Waiting till midnight!
Happy New Year!
Ringing in 2013 with a Nicaraguan cigar.
Nicaraguans have a tradition in which they burn "El Año Viejo". They create a cloth sculpture (like a life size pinata) and at midnight, they set it ablaze to burn all of the failures, regrets and anger of the past year, as well as welcoming new hopes and happiness for the new year to come. There were many "burning men" in the streets, and lots of fireworks, of course!
"El Año Viejo" burning in a street.
It was a great way to welcome 2013 and I am looking forward to this year being one of the greatest!