Quite a tradition

Having encountered a fair number of persons recently who ask, "Is December 8 still a holy day of obligation?" I conclude that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception doesn't have quite the same meaning in the Midwest USA as it does in Nicaragua. Known as "La Gritería," or the clamor, the yelling and the shouting, December 8 is the most celebrated time in that country after Christmas and Easter.

A faculty colleague is in Nicaragua on an immersion-testing trip to see whether or not that location would be a good destination for a student trip. He is in Nicaragua over the first two weeks in December, so he has just experienced "La Gritería" and shared some interesting information.

Festivities begin on the eve of La Gritería, or 6 p.m. December 7. Around the town yells of "Quién causa tanta alegría?" (Who causes so much happiness?) are heard. The unabashed response follows: "La concepción de María" (Mary's conception). Folks decorate altars to Mary in their houses in places that can be seen from the street.

Along with the shouting, there are fireworks and firecrackers going off from all directions, and the noise is incredible. The purpose is to venerate Mary in gratitude for the many miracles she shepherds. At 6 o'clock sharp, Nicaraguans gather in the streets to "shout" to the virgin as they visit the homes having altars and sing festive Marian songs, and then the house owners give out treats, including food, toys, noisemakers, etc. The group moves on to another house, and the house owners then wait for another group who comes to sing and seek treats.

This sounds like a fun cross between Christmas and Hallowe'en. My colleague collected gifts of candy, fruit, medals and a broom. While he gave the broom away before leaving Nicaragua, do you think he brought back any of the candy?

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio.]


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