Calendar of Annual Events and Festivals
Almost monthly, Nicaraguans gather to honor important historical, political and religious dates commemorating events throughout the calendar year. Here is a list of key events, festivals and religious holidays.
Commemoration day of the transfer from Leon Viejo to the city of Leon.
2nd weekend of January
Originally founded by the Spanish conquistador Hernandez de Cordoba at the base of the Mombotombo volcano in 1523, what is now known as Leon Viejo was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1610, burying the city in ash. Leon was moved to its current location and remained the capital of Nicaragua for more than 200 years until 1858.
International poetry festival and symposium on the poetry of Ruben Dario, Leon
February 12 – 19
Both activities commemorate the life and work of Ruben Dario as a poet and writer and leading exponent of Latin American modernism. Over the course of a week there are presentations of essays, poems, museum visits, folkloric dances and the coronation of a "Musa Dariana" in allusion to the source of inspiration of the poet.
Semana Santa or Holy Week, International
Although recognized throughout the Catholic world, the festivities that mark this holiest of holidays are unique in Leon. Daily parades are held honoring saints, “alfombras” or carpets made of colored sawdust with Christian themes are made in streets throughout Leon. The end of the week is marked by a final procession from the Cathedral.
Commemoration of the taking of the Acosasco Fort, León
Celebrated by a solemn parade through the streets of Leon to the hill where the fort is located, this is the annual start of a series of important days marking the struggle of the revolution.
Liberation Day/Revolution Day, National
This is a national holiday marking the day that the National Liberation Army defeated the Somoza dictatorship in the Nicaraguan Revolution.
University Students Day, Leon
During the Somoza era, there were many protest movements against the government by university students who fought for freedom of expression and autonomy at the University of Leon. On July 23rd, 1959, during a protest in the street National Guardsmen opened fire on college students, killing four of them.
La Griteria Chiquita, Leon
This Leon holiday is observed annually to fulfill a promise made by Bishop Monseñor Isidro Augusto Oviedo y Reyes to the Virgin in July 1947. He sought her protection from a violent eruption of the Cerro Negro volcano, about 19 miles from León, which was discharging rivers of lava and raining sand and ash over the city. The eruption did not stop until August 14th, after a procession of the Virgin from Leon to the volcano.
Victory in the battle of San Jacinto, National
A battle to expel William Walker and his mercenaries from Nicaragua during the decades after national independence. Walker had been invited to Nicaragua by one of the national parties to quell the civil war in the country, only to take up arms against all Nicaraguans and take over the country.
Independence Day, National
A national holiday held on September 15 to celebrate Central America’s independence from Spain in 1821.
Procession to honor the Virgin Mary, Leon
In September people attend mass every day at 4 a.m. On the night of the 23rd there are different activities including "toros encuetados", fireworks and serenades At dawn on the 24th, people attend mass at 4 a.m. (exclusively for women) and at 5 a.m. (exclusively for men). The procession starts at noon and concludes at 10 p.m.
Celebration of San Jeronimo
Saint Jerome (c. 347 – 30 September 420; was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, who became a Doctor of the Church. He is best known for his translation of the Greek and Hebrew Bibles into Latin (the Vulgate), which is still an important text in Catholicism. This feast day is celebrated with folk dances and colorful costumes. There are two processions with the image of San Jerónimo: The afternoon of the 29th, carrying the image from the Cathedral to Sutiava Church, where it remains overnight and the following morning returns to the Cathedral. For more on Saint Jerome see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome
Heading both processions are three or four dramatizations of "El Toro Guaco", accompanied by their personal drum band. El Toro Guaco (or Huaco) is a bull made with wood simulating a real animal. People dance with colored clothes and hats, using masks and challenging the "bull".
Indigenous Resistance Day, International
Formerly Columbus Day; Held on October 12 and highlights the struggle of native peoples against European colonialism.
La Griteria Immaculate – Celebration of the conception of Mary , National
Celebrated nationally on December 8 and in Leon on December 7.
Dedicated to the immaculate conception of Mary, Leon’s patron saint. This is the year’s most solemn and joyous festival and is celebrated throughout Nicaragua. It begins on the evening of the 7th, with fireworks at 6 p.m. People walk along Leon’s streets accompanied by music called "Chicheros" going house to house asking "who causes so much happiness?" and people in the home answer with same enthusiasm, "The Conception of Mary". Candies or small gifts are given out. The celebration ends the evening of 8th with a solemn mass in the Cathedral.