Semana Santa is coming quickly and bringing with it the incredible celebrations that make Nicaragua so unique. But instead of talking about Domingo de Ramos, San Benito de Palmero or the always fun Stations of the Cross by boat, I will be highlighting a few lesser-known festivals that will do you good to check out if you are anywhere south of Managua.
It’s a double shot of savior on the 16th in Masaya and neighboring Nindiri to mark the day in 1772 the villages were saved from certain destruction by the Masaya Volcano. As the story goes it the area was rocked by earthquakes and black smoke billowed out of the volcano, scaring the indigenous population (and Spanish I would assume) half to death. The local churches took action to calm the entrance to hell by carrying their respective saints up to the beast and…sure enough…the eruption subsided! The parade starts about 4 pm at the Magdalena church in Monimbo, Masaya and about 10 pm until 2 am at the main church in Nindiri. And at the volcano, well, the party never stops.
It’s a family affair. Mom, dad, kids, grandma, baby… all are packed into the Nica minivan (a covered ox cart) for the religious pilgrimage to Popoyuapa. The caravans left days ago from Masaya, Granada and other areas to make it here by the 19. Most of them roll in the morning and it is quite a sight to see. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can actually rent your own and join the journey for a couple of hundred bucks. It takes about ten days. If you are interested, ask around Granada for the junta directiva de los peregrinos. Someone will point you in the right direction.
Even the pets of Nicaragua have their own special days. March 22 is San Lazarus which is celebrated in Monimbo, Masaya. It’s when the local pets dress up in their Sunday best to get blessed by the local priest. There will be lots of pets dressed in all kinds of outfits, as well as hundreds of people with their pig-fat candles dripping inside the iglesia to watch the priest pour “chingastuda” on the backs of the mutts. There will also be a few “independent” blessings going on around town where groups of faithful will gather and hear the good word in exchange for a bag of Beggin’ Strips.
These are a few of the March celebrations in my book, the NCX Guide to Festivals and Events in Nicaragua, a travel guide that lists over 200+ fiestas throughout the year. You can pick it up on Amazon, Lucha Libro in Granada and Buho Books in Leon.