We were lucky enough to attend the traditional Nicaraguan holiday honoring the Virgin Mary called La Purisima while visiting Central America for one of our best friend’s wedding. An annual celebration that takes place on December 7th, the origins of this custom are not exactly clear. The version that belongs to the city of Granada, where we were staying, involves finding a statue of the Virgin Mary floating in the Lake of Nicaragua. The story goes that the English threw the statue into the San Juan River during an attack and it floated upstream and across the lake to land on the shores of Granada where it was found by washing women on December 7th, 1721.
Today, the tradition involves idol worship at the homes of those whom choose to build shrines to the Virgin Mary. They decorate the entrance to their homes and invite friends, family and neighbors to their doors to sing songs to their Virgin Mary shrine, hand out traditional Nicaraguan treats, and end with the call and response phrases: ‘What causes all this joy?’ and ‘Mary’s conception!’
There is also a grand final procession of the Virgin Mary that ends at the Parque Central where the whole town gathers to witness her statue, which is usually adorned with smoke, lights, and other saint figures upon a large float. She is followed by a brass brand and moves slowly throughout the streets on her way into the La Merced Church which sits across from the Parque Central.
We were told to expect her to roll into the center of town at 9pm, but in typical Nicaraguan fashion, she showed up about an hour and a half late. Fireworks had been exploding here and there for days but it felt like her arrival was the finale of not only La Purisima but also our trip to Granada as we were to leave the next day. The Virgin Mary’s presence throughout Nicaragua is felt everywhere, but it was during La Purisima that it becomes obvious that the preponderance of her image doesn’t happen every day just quite like this.
Posted by: Autumn