12/13/09 80 °F
We´ve already discussed the bombas before, during, and after masses every Sunday here, but this week we found out a new reason why being Catholic in Guatemala is way more fun than in the US. This week we celebrated ¨El día de la Concepción de la Virgen,¨ Guatemalan-style. Though I guess you can only celebrate it Guatemalan-style since I have never heard of any other country that celebrates it. Then again, maybe I just haven´t been in Latin America long enough.
For all of you non-believers and non-catholic school byproducts out there, this day celebrates the day when the angel Gabriel came to tell the teenage Mary that she was pregnant despite her immaculate life without sin. This day-December Eighth- is when Catholics venerate Mary for accepting this news graciously instead of freaking out. It is also the day they transport a statue of the Virgin Mary in between the many different shrines in town--she occupies a different one every year.
The night includes several stages with bands and each one has a carpet designed of colored flowers or colored corn meal in front of it. About three to four hundred Catholics parade the statue of The Virgin around the streets to be serenaded before taking her to reside in her new home. While being toted around, The Virgin Mary sits on a float with the Angel Gabriel, and both of them are covered in Christmas lights and accompanied by their own traveling musicians on either side. Of course this day is supposed to be only celebrated by Catholics and Evangelicals aren´t supposed to participate in all this Virgin Mary veneration, but it is quite the spectacle and so basically the whole town is there to watch the precession and of course the fireworks.
During the four hour pluys parade, there were at least two solid hours of fireworks. We aren´t talking somewhere in the distance behind a protective barrier type of fireworks, but bombas exploding right over your head and showering you with burning gunpowder, ash, and at times pegging people with still flaming remnants of paper. Only twice did failed bombas decend toward the crowd and explode five feet above people´s heads. So, it was moderately safe.
You can see the pictures below of the parade as well as some of us putting up the Christmas tree with the kids from the family. Also, there is one of Ben and Fray playing Jenga, because we play a lot of Jenga these days as all our friends seem to be between the ages of eight and fourteen.