Since American Airlines has clamped down on low-level award availability during the holidays (I was very fortunate to score a Christmas-New Year’s sAAver-ish fare last time around), our next trip to Nicaragua will be well after the holidays. But I have spent a few Christmases in Managua, and it’s actually the best time of year to go. Here’s what the Christmas season is like down south:
- The weather is great. The rainy season runs from May to November. The months before May are the hottest days of the year. But December and January… well, they’re not cool and refreshing but they’re not unpleasantly hot, either. It’s the time of year you don’t need to flee east to the mountains (or at least to El Crucero) to cool off. Daytime temperatures are in the mid to high 80s and in the evening the temperature often drops below 70 which is downright frosty by Managua standards. Once I literally saw a graphic of a thermometer with ice on it in the local newspaper after the temperature reached all the way down to the low 60s.
- Managua loves Christmas lights. I don’t mean people putting lights up at their house, although some people do indeed do that, I’m talking about the nativity displays. Government agencies and some of the larger businesses fund these displays along Avenue Bolivar, one of the main drags of Managua. There is music as well and lots of people stroll up and down the street to take it all in, and the displays extend to the waterfront along Lake Managua. There are several dozen of these displays and they look something like this:
- Fireworks: If you like blowing stuff up, then you’ll enjoy Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in Managua. Folks set off fireworks all evening, and then shortly before midnight the activity crescendos to non-stop explosions. As somebody who enjoys fireworks, I can tell you that it is glorious. They have the standard fireworks that we’re all familiar with, but they also have the old school firecrackers which are just gunpowder inside of a cardboard tube, except these are bigger (as in stick of dynamite big) and louder than any firecrackers you can buy here.
- No Santa: Several years ago my wife went to speak to our son’s first grade class about Christmas in Nicaragua. The best question she received, aside from “Does Nicaragua have elves?”, was “How does Santa visit if everybody stays up all night?”. They don’t do the Santa Claus thing in Nicaragua. Instead, you get together with your relatives and everybody swaps gifts and parties. There’s plenty of feasting and drinking and even the little ones stay up as late as they want.
- All the festivities are on Christmas Eve. As I described it before, it’s like Christmas + St. Patrick’s Day + Fourth of July rolled up into one great night. Last time I was there the priest complained at church the next day about all the drinking and debauchery that goes on Christmas Eve. Good times, good times…
This will be my last post of the year. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy Chrismahanukwanzakah!