Trin with Leon Viejos

They Burned Him At Midnight

When you see them running toward you, turn around and run.

Running from the bull as rockets explode. A New Years Eve Leon tradition.
Rockets exploding from the bull running toward us.


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, especially when our friend was mugged.  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 whom 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.

Friends celebrating. A New Years Eve Leon tradition.
Trin, Bonnie, Tania, and Jose

I would not want to be driving through Leon in New Year’s Eve. Families and friends unofficially closed off many of the streets 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.


Pinata fun. A New Years Eve Leon tradition.
Trin trying to break the pinata


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 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.


A string of bombs. A New Years Eve Leon tradition.
The string of fire bombs headed our way


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) wired with multiple rocket bombs on every side.


The bull with bombs. A New Years Eve Leon tradition.
Trin, trying on the bull before it was lit.

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 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.

Jumping from rockets at his feet. A New Years Eve Leon tradition.
Trin jumping as a rocket spins beneath his feet


Midnight had arrived, and it was time to burn the viejo (old man).  He hung above the street from a wire 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. He 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.


Burning the Viejo, saying goodbye to 2016. A New Years Eve Leon tradition.
Burning the Viejo, saying goodbye to 2016


They strung up the bull with another set of rocket bombs. 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 were 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 the truth.

10 thoughts on “They Burned Him At Midnight”

  1. This has got to be the best blog so far. I absolutely loved reading about the celebration during New Year’s Eve. Sounds like so much fun. WOW!

  2. I really enjoyed reading about the New Year celebrations in Leon, Nicaragua. Hearing about the traditions of other cultures is fascinating to learn of.

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