Wow, December already. It has been a year of fascinating festivals and events in Nicaragua. If you haven’t been lucky enough to see any parades yet don’t worry, December is one of the best months to be here!
On the 6th in the dusty town of El Viejo right outside of Chinandega, pilgrims come from miles around to cleanse themselves of their sins -inside and out- by bathing in and drinking up the holy water used to wash the Virgin’s silver relics. It’s the Lavada de Plata, and it is world famous in Chinandega.
The church is one of the oldest in the country and was founded when the good friar who was carrying the statue of the Virgin on a Central American tour took shelter on the spot during a heavy storm. When he tried to make a break for it the storm returned, which was enough of a sign to leave the Virgin right there and build a church around her. Since then she has been credited for innumerable miracles of healing (and probably a few undocumented cases of dysentery) from those who wash her jewels and then themselves. Starts early and ends about mid afternoon.
If that is too early for you young folk, how about checking out the Gigantona Nocturna in Masatepe on the 23rd? You have probably seen the giant woman figure dancing about with the little big-headed man if you have spent any time in towns between Leon and Granada. Starting about 9pm they hit the streets in pairs dancing around and shouting sonnets, accompanied by their roving band of musical revelers. Things climax about 3am that night when the Gigantonas meet up have have a breakdance duel to the death in the park (so I’ve heard). Not only that but Masatepe is a cool village. Go check it out.
Of all the strange hybrid traditions Nicaragua is famous for, the Moscu in Tasbapauni has to be one of the most fun to experience. Take the viejas nalgonas from Bluefield’s San Jeronimo parades and mix it with the Miskito ursus mairin dance and throw in some Garifuna drumming and you have a 100% Caribbean-style celebration.
The Moscu stands for Masquerade and has participants dressing up in whatever they can find that isn’t the typical shorts, t-shirt and sandals coast style. They follow the village band around, stopping every five minutes to play and perform their dance. It starts around Christmas and goes on until after the New Year, pretty much whenever people feel like doing it.
With all the other festivals going on, how will you know if there is a festival where you are at today? Well, did you hear bombs go off at 5am? “Yes but that’s everyday.” Well, that’s how often people celebrate. Just follow the explosions.
These are a few of the December celebrations in my new book, the NCX Guide to Festivals and Events in Nicaragua, a travel guide that lists over 200+ fiestas throughout the year.