Christmas in Nicaragua is like nowhere else in the world that either one of us has ever experienced. The excitement and momentum has been slowly building for weeks now. We blogged before about the street community meetings to organize fund raisers to pay for the holiday festivities. Nicaragua is over 90% Catholic, so the whole country gears up for the once a year celebration, with much gusto.
Now that we live here, we can participate in the festivities, not from the outside, but from the inside. The lead up to December 24 allows us to do just that. Well, finally the day comes and the street is decorated with streamers, lights and pinatas strung high above the streets, waiting to be struck.
A theater group of street jugglers and mime is the appetizer, to provide some day time street-level activities for young and old alike. Fire fighters “bomberos” stage a last minute “tutorial” to educate the kids on safety issues. Their focus is not to prohibit the use of firecrackers and fireworks, as it is such a central part of this culture. But at least they can seek to minimize the number of incidents and burn casualties. There are no safety codes as such and home-made mortar and fire rockets are the norm.
A procession of kids, all dressed up in traditional folkloric costumes, starts on our street and winds its way to Convento San Francisco. The procession is headed up by Isabella, our friends’ daughter — fair skin, blond ringlets — type cast to be a head angel. Our young neighbors are active participants in the procession.
On the way back from the Convento, we see Adam, hanging out and drinking beer with the 20 something “chavallos” from the hood. These guys are our neighbors two doors down who are the self appointed DJs of our street, providing continuous (loud) music at any hour of the night, going from traditional Nica ballads to hard rock, Latino Metal and Fifty Cents. We had been warned by our other neighbors, when we moved here, that these were “tough guys” / “bad boys”. But our experience has been quite the contrary. They are the ones who saved Mango from his early roof-walking escapade, carrying the “bandito” off the roof to safety.
Christmas dinner at the home of Nieves and Anders for a meal, which proves to be a gourmet treat. Succulent duck, deboned stuffed chicken Chilean style, traditional Danish almond-based dessert and Danish post dinner games all make for a memorable Christmas dinner. Seeing as they spent Channukah with us, it was great to be able to experience with Adam their Christmas.
It was exactly midnight when we all left the house to go check out the Pinata “action”. The street was thick with grey smoke. The smell of sulfur was inescapable and the noise level off the chart. Back to our street which was, literally, rocking. Live music of tuba, trumpet and drums provided the beat for kids to dance between Pinata strikes.
The Pinatas hang high on a string in the middle of the street. Each pinata is “controlled” by a neighborhood elder who zooms it up and down based on the swinger’s capability and dancing prowess. Visualize four year old boys shaking their hips in a Latino Madonna fashion. Seems like a gyrating girl or boy is part of the culture and the sexually explicit movements are egged on by the encouraging crowd. When the pinata finally breaks, it’s a feeding frenzy with bodies flying toward the pavement with no regard for little ones getting crushed. To quote Pablo, our always insightful and sensible 9 year old neighbor, with a big grin “era violento” — it was “violent”. Hugo displayed his singed fingers from holding a fire cracker too long, with much pride.
The pinata dance and crush is repeated every 50 feet or so, every twenty minutes or so, adequately fueled by the sugar content of earlier pinata candy finds.
We finally call it a night at 1:30 am, knowing we have to get up at 4:30 to take Adam to the airport. The street is still going strong, Barcelona style. When the alarm rings at 4:30am, the music from the corner house is still blaring. As we leave in the taxi at 5am, the music finally stops. All will be quiet until the street reawakens late on Christmas day.
But… it’s not over. Christmas Eve / Day is a package deal. ALL of Granada, or so it seems, moves to the lake front around mid-day to let the kids get their yayas out, while parents deal with inevitable hangovers from copious drinking. The beach front is PACKED with Granadinos, like we have never seen it before. It was great to see so many people enjoying the lake front.
Our young friend Erica joined us for a swim, fully clothed of course, as is customary in Nicaragua. When in Nicaragua, do as the Nicaraguans do, so off we go in fully clothed.
New Year’s Eve is only 7 days away, and the whole street will ignite again into a bombastic frenzy. Did we mention that we love it here in Nicaragua?