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.