When you see them running toward you, turn around and run.
Our New Year’s eve began with a dinner cooked by Trinity for Manuel and Rome. They own and run the hostel where we are staying. They are a very kind, quiet couple who care about the people who stay here. Trin made chicken adobo and a side dish of chayote.
After dinner Trin and I headed to Tania’s house to celebrate the start of the new year with her family. Tania is an intelligent and beautiful woman we met here in Leon, Nicaragua where she grew up and currently works as a dentist. We have enjoyed her insight into the area and into the culture of Nicaragua.
I would not want to be driving through Leon in New Year’s Eve. Many of the streets were unofficially closed off by families and friends simply by stringing a rope across the road and setting up tables and chairs.
We hung out with Tania’s family and friends out on the street, talking and drinking. Nicaragua has a version of the eggnog called Rompope and it was pretty good.
After a while, they started up the piñata. This was as much for the adults as it was for the kids. It was setup to be a little bit more challenging as it was controlled by two people, one for the up and down motion and the other for the side to side. Almost everyone took turns, including Trin and I. It was not easy and the piñata hit us more than we hit it, but eventually somebody broke the piñata and we all grabbed candy.
Tania’s cousin works at a fireworks factory and every year he tries to outdo himself. As midnight approached he brought out a very long rope of bombs. They laid it out on the street from one end of the block to the other. The rope bomb was so long that there was still a lot of it left when they reached the other end of the block.
They were trying to decide whether to pull it across to the next street or just spread it out on the corner when we heard loud and fiery explosions coming from the other end of the block. Evidently the other guys had already set off the rope bomb on the other end, and the explosions were approaching us at a quick pace. We all stepped back as Tania’s cousin, who still had a large part of the rope bomb wrapped around his arm, frantically spread it out in all directions.
After the string of bombs died down we walked back toward the middle of the block to see them light the bull. A man climbed inside a square box (vaguely resembling the shape of a bull) that was wired with multiple rocket bombs on every side.
We followed him as he started prancing and hopping down the street, the people in front of him running away as the fuse grew shorter. Without warning, he quickly turned around and started running towards us. We all ran away in fits of screams and laughter as the first set of rocket bombs flew in all directions. There would be a pause in between explosions as the fuse approached the next set in the bull, and we repeated the whole thing a few times.
Midnight had arrived, and it was time to burn the viejo (old man). He was hanging above the street from a wire that has been strung between the homes on either side. The viejo is a paper mâché of an old man dressed to the 9’s with real clothes and represents the old year that is passing. He is a stuffed with firecrackers and bombs. They light him up in a great bundle of fire and explosions.
They strung up the bull with another set of rocket bombs and we did another round of “running with the bull,” laughing and then having more drinks with the family. My favorite part of the night was seeing the family, generations worth of relatives sitting around in chairs in the street, together, talking, laughing, having fun and enjoying each other. Fireworks continued to go off all around us and the streets were alive with parties. A wonderful way to bring in the new year.
Happy New Year to all. May this year brings you health and happiness, but most of all continued courage to question and seek truth.