Night of the Radishes in Oaxaca Date in the current year: December 23, 2022

Night of the Radishes in Oaxaca The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Los Rábanos) is an annual festival that takes place on December 23, several days before Christmas, in the Mexican city of Oaxaca. It is a competition that focuses on the carving of oversized radishes to create various scenes.

The roots of this unusual tradition can be traced back to the Spanish colonization of Mexico. The radish is native to Southeast Asia, and it was Spanish, particularly the friars, who introduced it to Mexico. Eventually it became a popular side dish and snack.

According to legend, the tradition of carving radishes into decorations was born in the mid-18th century. One year the radish crop was so abundant that part of it remained unharvested well into December. Shortly before Christmas, two monks pulled up some of these forgotten radishes and discovered that they were oversized and strangely shaped. The monks brought the radishes to the local Christmas marked held on December 23, where the misshapen vegetables attracted much attention.

Since wood carving was a popular occupation and pastime on Oaxaca, local farmers began to carve radishes into various figures in order to attract more customers at the annual Christmas market. Eventually radish figures became an indispensable attribute of the Christmas market and popular centerpieces for Christmas dinners. In 1897, the mayor of Oaxaca created the formal competition that has been held every year to this day.

Today, the city has a portion of land specifically dedicated to the cultivation of radishes for the event. These radishes are heavily fertilized, treated with chemicals and left in the ground until mid-December to allow them to reach huge sizes (up to 50 cm long and 10 cm wide) and acquire unusual shapes. Of course, these radishes are virtually inedible and can only be used for carving.

The radishes are harvested on December 18 and distributed between registered contestants by the local authorities overseeing the competition. After that, the contestants have five days to figure out what they’re going to carve based on the shape of the radishes they’ve got. The actual carving and assembly of the scenes occurs in the morning and early afternoon of December 23, since radishes wilt and lose their shape really quickly and contestants can’t make their sculptures in advance. The competition lasts from late afternoon to early evening.

Every year, over 100 participants compete for prizes in various categories, attracting thousands of spectators. A lot of scenes created for the contest are related to religion (nativity scenes, veneration of saints) or local history, folklore, traditions and festivals, but this is not a requirement, and many contestants chose other themes.

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Category

Cultural Observances

Country

Mexico

Tags

Night of the Radishes in Oaxaca, holidays in Mexico, festivals in Mexico, cultural holidays