Here is a gallery from the Christmas Eve celebrations in La Arinconada, El Sauce.

Rachel helping to pack the truck – backpacks, piñatas, extra candy, balloons, lots of vegetables, gifts for kids, baseball bag, and toys for the nursery school.

First stop: buy fireworks.  Apparently they are as important as ours are on New Years, lit off right at midnight on December 24.  Nicaraguans couldn’t celebrate anything without a little bang.  Purchased: sparklers, flares, and several “volcanoes” that spew sparks up six feet into the air.  My favorite oddities (plans for New Years are forming…): the mini Nicaraguan bull costumes the shoot sparks, and the “Laying Hens” that spew fireball eggs.

As we neared La Arinconada, we let off a few flares to announce our arrival.  A few minutes later we were met head on by a sprinting crew of chigüines, who delightedly rode on the tailgate for the last kilometer of the bumpy ride.

Melaña had everything prepared to make her famous stuffed chicken. She skins the chicken, carefully keeping the entire skin intact. It takes her about an hour for each chicken. Then she cooks the meat and mixes it with uncooked rice, vegetables, fresh herbs, and ketchup, worchestershire sauce, and mustard. The mixture gets stuffed right back into the chicken skins and they are sewn up like rag-hens.  As they roast, the rice expands and so when they came out they were all puffed up like fat little chickens.  An impressive and artistic culinary endeavor.  I loved it.

Brigido arrived and started singing with the kids.  We followed with some games – water balloon toss turned out to be a huge success.  After smashing the three piñatas and finding a light bulb and car battery to attach it to for some light, we finally we ready to start handing out gifts as the sun was setting.

Our Santa Claus, Gregorio, with a chigüine.

After the chaos of handing out presents to over 100 kids in the dark, and a looong dance party and a nap before setting fireworks off at midnight, we sat down to a very elegant Christmas dinner with Melaña and her family.  We all took turns slicing into the roast stuffed chickens, and toasted with some wine we brought from León with us.  Merry Christmas!