How to bring in the New Year, Nicaragua style

New Year’s Eve parties in Nicaragua are by no means mild affairs. Indeed, the celebrations are two-fold – both to welcome in the new year, and to bid farewell to the old one. Whatever the previous year might have thrown at you, for all its ups and downs, a celebration is in order, for here comes another! To mark the publication of our upcoming Culture Smart! Nicaragua, here’s how to bring in the new year, Nicaragua style. Receive 25% off the RRP in January with our CSNEW25 discount code here!

In Nicaragua the action starts to get going in the evening, when families gather together for a large and festive meal that will be eaten between 9:00 p.m. and midnight. Traditionally Nicaraguans will prepare the same foods as they eat for Christmas dinner: nacatamales (a plantain-wrapped meat parcel), arroz a la Valenciana (a fancy rice dish), roast pork, suckling pig, and relleno navideño (a stuffing made of meat, capers, olives, currants, and nuts). So get ready for a real feast, provided you’re not vegan.

Don’t turn up to dinner in your work boots, because after the food, a session of seriously lively leg shaking will commence to a variety of local genres: cumbias, norteñas, reggaeton, and other popular Latin songs of the day. Don’t be a spectator! Take the opportunity to start to work off those Christmas and New Year indulgences.

Here are 5 local tips to ensure good tidings for the year ahead:

  1. Fashion your future. Nicaraguans will wear new clothes on New Year’s Eve to start the year looking their best and to set the standard for the year ahead. If you are looking for love, wearing red underwear is recommended, while if you are in need of a little financial relief, putting $50 in your right shoe is thought to do the trick.
  2. For a prosperous and successful year, eat twelve grapes in unison with the twelve chimes of midnight. Go ahead, have a grape time.
  3. One for the wayfarers among us: grab a suitcase and go for a run around the block. Why? To ensure a year of safe and happy travels, of course. Now off you go! Yes, suitcases with wheels is cheating.
  4. If you missed your spring clean in April, don’t worry because now you have another chance. Start the New Year afresh and be rid of the problems of the past by sweeping out your house on the stroke of midnight. It’s cathartic, costs less than therapy, and will delight your housemates who will think you’ve turned over a new leaf.
  5. Now if 2018 was a tough year, then this is the one for you. A popular Nicaraguan tradition is to make a life-size cloth and papier-mâché effigy of an old man or woman and burn it. The ritual is known as la quema del año Viejo, the burning of the old year. Go a step further by writing out a list of bad things that have happened to you over the past year and slip it into the clothes of the effigy before it is set alight. Typically holding a cigarette or cigar in one hand and a bottle of guaro, local moonshine, in the other to represent the vices of the bad old year, the effigies are packed with gunpowder and fireworks to ensure that the symbolic burning goes off with a bang before being dragged out into the street and set alight. Hoorah and good riddance!

Happy new year, fellow travellers.


The Culture Smart! team


Order your copy now and receive a 25% discount with our CSNEW25 discount code throughout January!

The above text was adapted from Culture Smart! Nicaragua, written by Russell Maddicks.

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