I woke up Wednesday morning at 5:30 am to an explosion that jerked me awake.  The explosions continued, and it was obvious that I was not going to get any more sleep.  As I drank coffee and read (I’m reading a novel of seducion and history written by Gioconda Belli, one of Nicaragua’s prominant authors, in Spanish), I was startled by loud explosions for over an hour.  I don’t know if I will ever get used to the Nicaraguan love of fireworks.  For every occasion – birthdays, anniversaries, patron saint festivals – they bring out the works.  In this case it was Ash Wednesday, apparently a catholic holiday of extreme importance, given the potency of the explosions.

Catholicism here is like food.  As far as I can tell, going to mass is like having dinner.  It’s essential, you don’t question it, and it’s not a big deal.  Everyone understands that you eat when you can.  Sundays people trickle in and out of the Cathedral all day.  The services may start at 10, but you go when you can.  When services officially end, there is no stream of people exiting the church like in the Episcopal church where I grew up.  Half the people have already wandered out during the service, the other half maybe just arrived and will sit and contemplate or pray for a while afterward.

The celebrations draw crowds and are showy demonstrations of youth and affluence.  Each church has it’s patron saint which is celebrated once a year with a procession through the streets.  During Lent there will be 14 processions, representing the 14 stations of the cross, organized throughout the city.  Seven of them will take place the week of Easter, when apparently the more religious folks are processing and going to Mass and the other half the city are at the beach celebrating to Reggaeton.  Either way, it promises to be colorful and interesting, and I’m looking forward to it.  Maybe except for the fireworks.  5:30 am!!!

An angel in the Fiesta Patronal in Los Leches, a village outside of Leon

An angel in the Fiesta Patronal in Los Leches, a village outside of Leon. She is riding in a float pulled by a tractor, along with seven other angels.

Procession to La Merced, in the center of Leon.  This procession also had two sets of virgins with babies and Joseph, three kings mounted on horseback, and a group of singers led by a man playing guitar.

Procession to La Merced, in the center of Leon. This procession also had two sets of virgins with babies and Joseph, three kings mounted on horseback, and a group of singers led by a man playing guitar.

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