Christmas in Nicaragua begins officially on the 6th of December. On December 7th with the Nicaraguans celebrating "La Purisima"(meaning "the most pure) or the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary. Thousands in the country, specially the young, sing as loudly as they can and go from house to house, to sing hymns honouring the Virgin Mary. Someone from the crowd loudly asks what the cause of their happiness is? The chorus immediately answers, “The conception of the Virgin Mary!” For such performances, every house rewards the performers with generous treats including items like rosquillas, leche de burra (a sweet called donkey’s milk) nacatamal (tamal stuffed with meat) oranges, lemons, and chopped caña (cane).
In the weeks leading up to the festival, people come out on the streets in large numbers to buy candles,
images of Nativity, presents, small Nativity figures, toys, flower bouquets and various types of food items. Children carry beautiful bouquets to the alter of the Virgin and sing carols. Splendid fireworks are to be beheld all over the sky throughout the entire month of December. The whole family decorates the Christmas tree that they buy for the occassion. The festival, however, actually begins on December 16 with the performance of the lodging difficulties of Mary and Joseph. Every home carefully constructs a manger scene for this purpose. The home where lodging is found, supplies wine and food.
From December 16 until Christmas Eve Mass, prayer is held each evening in the home, followed by refreshments and the singing of carols. Contrary to the American celebration of Christmas on 25th December, the festival here is celebrated a day earlier. December 25th is just a regular day here.
Christmas Day is celebrated with fun, feasts, fireworks and dancing. The main streets of the town and cities are decorated and have loud-speakers broadcasting Christmas carols. In small towns, there is an old custom of the Catholic Church organising a parade or "procession". The priest goes around the town with a number of performers imitating various Biblical characters and enacting the birth, passion and life of Jesus Christ. Many people view this parade with great devotion.
The Christmas dinner is something everyone looks forward to here, as in elsewhere. On the morning of December 24th, all in the family work together to prepare the Christmas dinner. The Nicaraguan Christmas celebration is largely influenced by ancient Spanish traditions. Hence, the menu traditionally consists of Valencian style rice similar to Paella, stuffed chicken, nacatamal, and freshly baked bread. Spanish biscochos are served for dessert. In Nicaragua, the extended members of the family and friends are invited to each others homes to celebrate Christmas. At night, everyone in the family prepare to go to church. On Christmas Eve, church bells are rung which signify the start of the Midnight Mass. Thousands attend this Christmas Eve Mass, after which everyone enjoys the Christmas dinner together. White-coloured Christmas cards are exchanged on this occassion. Everyone wishes "Feliz Navidad" (meaning "Merry Christmas" in Nicaragua) to another.
On December 25th, everyone wakes up early in the morning. While the adults go to the market to purchase the food to be prepared for the Christmas dinner, kids look for toys on their pillows or rush to find gifts placed under the Christmas tree by Papa Noel. Here, children write letters to Papa Noel, the Nicaraguan equivalent of Santa Clus, asking him to bring them the toys and gifts they want to receive at midnight on December 24th.