This past weekend was the celebration of Purisima, a Catholic and uniquely Nicaraguan holiday celebrating the conception of the Virgin Mary. Although acknowledged as a national holiday, the main hype takes place in the capital city of Managua and the celebration’s birthplace of Leon.
This year I got to participate in Managua’s famous Purisima tradition called “La Gritería” (The Shout). In relation to U.S. cultural traditions, “La Gritería” falls somewhere between trick or treating and Christmas caroling.
Groups of people go around the community to sing at different houses which have set up elaborate altars of the Virgin Mary. Many of these households have prepared all year for this night, gathering and making gifts to hand out to those who come to sing. While the group sings traditional Purisima songs, the family hands out a gift to each singer including anything from candy, fruit, rice and Nacatamales (Nicaraguan’s version of a tamale) to tupperware, dishes and other household items.
After three hours of singing and stuffing my backpack full of goodies, I was ready to call it a night. I divided my loot, sharing with some of our neighbors and headed home tired yet satisfied. Despite not identifying with this Catholic celebration, it was fun to get out and experience this unique tradition. During Purisima I was reminded again of the generous spirit of the Nicaraguan people as they willingly open their doors and share what little they have with such joy.
*photos courtesy of Audrey White