Shouting at the Virgin

“Quién causa tanta alegría?” (Who causes so much happiness?)  No, it’s not Santa Claus or Superman…in Nicaragua it’s the Virgin Mary. Every December 7th at 6pm, hundreds of people gather at their local church to shout gleefully at the plaster-of-Paris Virgin Mary statue, shoot fireworks, and parade through the local town with Virgin Mary bobbing above the clouds of gelled hair.

virgin mary copyHappiness, to a faithful Nicaraguan, is Mary’s Conception and they are proud to demonstrate their glee with an ancient traditional celebration called La Gritería, which translates as “the shouting”.  Singing and shouting, they profess their love for the Virgin Maria, thanking her for the miracles bestowed upon them.

Francisco compared it to Halloween and trick-or-treating, without the tricks. Virgin Maria is paraded from one house to another, where elaborate altars are decorated in front of the houses. When the promenade arrives, the people shout, “Quién causa tanta alegría?” and the singing begins. “Oh, it is like caroling in the states,” I told Francisco.

Thanks to for the beautiful alter picture

Thanks to for the beautiful altar picture

The home owners distribute candies, fruit, natural drinks, and plastic noise makers (the kids love these). They hang around in groups singing and visiting until it’s time to move on to the next altar. In Moyogalpa, the parade visits eight altars, usually the same altars every year. “How are the altars chosen?” I asked Francisco. He laughed and said, “I don’t know. They must be very rich families because they have many gifts to give to their visitors.”

At midnight, the parade returns the tired Virgin Mary to the church, and the fireworks and firecrackers announce the official day of La Gritería, which is December 8th. The parade of tired shouters happily return to their homes with bags of sugary treats. The streets are littered with firework residue and candy wrappers. Grateful for the many blessings bestowed upon them for their faithfulness, they wrap themselves in sweet dreams until the next La Gritería.


19 thoughts on “Shouting at the Virgin

  1. How wonderful! There must be something similar in Colombia because our Colombian neighbors had an event with lights, fireworks and lots of fun, and also distributed sweets to the neighbors. There was no singing or parade but the whole neighborhood sure felt festive. How fortunate we are to experience the customs of others and share in their celebrations.

    • You just gotta be active in your church and ask the preist to be a statue bearer, usually a sacristan( a person who helps with the church’s chores) are the ones that carry all statue for it is not an easy job, Catholics offer these penances to God in reparation for sins and the conversion of sinners…… I am the official Nicaraguan cultural ambassador, you can ask me anything in all things Nicaraguan and Catholic 🙂

  2. Nice piece. Purisima is rapidly becoming my favorite holiday anywhere, anytime. Some of the floats in parades are incredible also. We happened to be in Granada last week when the world’s youngest “pope” came through on a hand-pulled float, giving his blessings and releasing doves. He wasn’t at all meaning to be sacreligious or satirical and indeed, the genuine spirit of this festival is clear to anyone. Really fun for the whole community everywhere!

  3. regarding your question: “How are the altars chosen?” Who ever makes an altar in their homes to celebrate La Purisima it’s usually because they have recieved a miracle from The Mother of God or are extremely devoted to Blessed Mother… For Example: You can make a promise to our Lady to celebrate The Purisima every year for as long as you live, in exchange for a special favor you want, it could be health, a business of your own,your kids getting off drugs or the healing of a family member. The Purisima actually takes 9 days to finish; you pray the novena for 8 days and on the 9th it is when you have the celebration. great read 🙂

    • Jorge, thank you so much for explaining this to me. I’m still a little confused about La Purisima and La Griteria. Is La Purisima the 9 day celebration and La Griteria the final day celebration? In Moyogalpa, the altars were set up for 9 days, but the families only visited the altars on the eighth day during La Griteria. I love these traditional religious celebrations in Nicaragua.

      • Deb! you just gave me a good chuckle 🙂 La Purisima and La Griteria are the same.. the thing is in Catholicism Blessed Mother is known as La Purisima which actually translate as The Purest among all women.. Nicaraguans called it la griteria cause We shout “quien causa tanta alegria” (who causes much happinness) and we reply “The Conception of Mary”(La concepcion de Maria) The celebration is supposed to be done on the 9th day I believe. Deb! I love all those traditional celebrations also, even if you are not religious it is a great festive atmosphere that anybody can enjoy

  4. what a great story! t
    this makes me remember being awakened during the week hours of the morning in san juan del sur with what must be the same tradition. someone told me that they were waking up baby jesus!

    thanks so much for sharing this!

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