Wandering the Streets During La Griteria in Leon, Nicaragua
In predominantly Catholic Nicaragua, the days leading up to Christmas are one big party in honor of La Virgen (the Virgin Mary), culminating on December 7 (the day of the Immaculate Conception) with La Griteria, a festival that feels like a cross between Halloween and Carnival. Throngs of children move from house to house en masse, receiving candies and trinkets as their feet crunch burnt firecracker carcasses strewn like white chocolate sprinkles across the top of a birthday cake. The windows of Leon are strung with gaudy lights flickering in an alternating Morse code of canary yellow, bordello red, and carnation pink. Plastic pine trees hold religious adornments and Disney characters—Winnie the Pooh alongside the crucifix—while virgin statues perch on white satin pillows, strings of Mardi Gras beads accenting her robes.