Traveling to Nicaragua over Christmas? You’ve come to the right place for sunshine, relaxation and a less commercial twist to the season. While you would normally associate Christmas with cold weather, turkey and hot beverages, here in the tropics you could be hiking a volcano, snorkeling, or exploring a colonial city. Christmas is also a religious time for Nicaraguans and they enjoy creating and participating in religious street processions.
While Nicaraguans do eat a traditional Christmas dinner it is eaten on December 24th, and not on December 25th. Normally, most families are very religious and will attend Catholic Mass together or a church service in the evening. Then they return home to eat a big dinner, set off fireworks, and exchange gifts. Celebrations are inside the home and it is rare for Nicaraguans to eat out at a restaurant. A typical dinner is not turkey – it is stuffed chicken, vegetables, nacatamales – corn pastries filled with pork and Paella. These dishes brought by the Spanish conquerors who arrived in Nicaragua in the 1600s.
Most homes will have trees and lights as Nicaraguans love to decorate. However, the center of the season is the nativity scene of baby Jesus in the manger. These enormous, life-like scenes are put up inside homes and churches. The Cathedral of Granada has a large Nativity Scene that takes up half of the front of the church with a variety of statues and intricate decorations. Even if you don’t attend mass, it’s worth getting a glimpse of this or a photo.
On December 25thNicaraguans go out to visit family and friends, and the streets are full of families walking around together. They go to different homes to admire the decorations and to spend time together.
The Purisima – December 8
Perhaps more important than Christmas Day is the lead-up to the season itself. On December 7thNicaraguans will go from home to home, especially in the country, singing Christmas carols. The houses where they perform will give them treats like oranges, sweets, and leche de burra – a caramel candy made from donkey’s milk. On December 8th, Nicaraguans celebrate La Purisima, and if you are in Granada, you will enjoy a loud and boisterous street celebration culminating in a procession of the Virgin Mary. If you are in Nicaragua over this date, expect to hear loud fireworks from 4.30am onwards and then into the early hours of the morning. These are legal and often startle visitors – be prepared for a late night or purchase ear plugs.
How Should Tourists Celebrate?
Nicaraguans are very friendly, and they will welcome you to join in their street parades and processions. They don’t mind if you take photos – in fact, they encourage it. Many of our guests also choose to attend the Catholic Mass on Christmas Eve to get a feel for the religious focus of the holidays. Nicaraguans work through Christmas, especially if they work in the tourism industry. Restaurants, bars, and hotels are open as normal. On December 24 and 25th tourist attractions are also open, but we advise you to reserve in advance or speak with your accommodation provider. Granada is a city filled with colonial architecture and churches constructed in the 1600s. Upscale restaurants, bars, and cafes abound, and the city is known as one of the most authentic places to see a traditional Nicaraguan celebration of the season. Check out our small, romantic hotel in the heart of Granada.
One of the World’s Last Untouched Paradises
A true tropical escape is the Corn Islands on the country’s Caribbean Coast. This is shoulder season in the islands meaning there could be wind or rain, but generally there isn’t too much of it. From March to May the islands enjoy dry and sunny weather. Being from Bermuda, another beautiful and remote Atlantic Island, I have a soft spot for these islands, but they are not for everyone. The Corns are a bit rustic and undeveloped. You need to appreciate the simplicity and the ocean to enjoy the islands.
There are few places like this left in the world – no resorts, infinity pools, or upscale restaurants. The people are lovely and warm-hearted and like all islanders, they have an interesting history to share.
In this remote paradise 70km east of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, you can watch fishermen bringing in the day’s catch. Shrimp and lobster fishing is the main industry here, followed by tourism. Nicaraguans from the Corn Islands are also different – some even speak Creole English as a first language and Spanish as a second language. Interesting, beautiful and remote, it’s an off-the-beaten-path destination for travelers exploring the many sides of Nicaragua’s culture and geography.
For more Corn Island information visit the Vagrants of the World Blog.