December 23: Night of the Radishes?

We talked about novel Christmas celebrations in South America last week. Now let’s look a bit farther north. On her website, Irene of My Slice of Mexico provides information about a Oaxacan tradition you will want to hear about, Night of the Radishes!

There were no radishes in Mexico until the Spanish brought them over in the 1500s. The Spanish friars began to grow them. Legend has it than in the mid-1800s, the harvest was so plentiful that a good number of radishes were left in the ground. They continued to grow into strange and humorous shapes. Many were two feet long and weighed several pounds. When they were dug up, they were brought to the Christmas craft fair as a novelty and carved into religious figures and scenes from the Bible by vendors trying to attract attention to their booths.

In 1897, Mayor Francisco Vasconcelos Flores made Noche de rábano, Night of the Radishes an annual event. For decades, the government of Oaxaca has grown a field of highly fertilized extra large radishes for the yearly competition. Artisans of the Christmas market on the main square have a few days to plan, then carve them into wonderful sculptures. In past years, over 100 people participated in the competition, both adults and children. Unfortunately, this year the event was not held due to the pandemic.

Here are a few entries from contestants in 2014. We’ll start with two of the Patron Saint of Oaxaca:

“Oaxaca…vives en mi” (…you live in me), Patroness of Oaxaca, by Angel Damian Lopez Romero Photo: Alejandro Linares García
Nuestra Señora de Soledad al Pie de la Cruz, La Patrona de Oaxaca (Our Lady of Solitude at the Foot of the Cross) by Andres Aguilar Arroyo Photo: Alejandro Linares García
Virgin de Guadalupe by Alberto Sebastian Cortes Acevedo, children’s category Photo: Alejandro Linares García
La Catrina by Roberto Isaac Muñoz Velasco, 2014 Noche de rábanos, Photo: Alejandro Linares García
La Revolución Mexicana by Erick Daniel Mendoza Nolasco Photo: Alejandro Linares García

I’ve never traveled to Oaxaca. I’d heard of the impressive crafts and food culture, and this is the final enticement. Now I must see the Noche de rábanos! Gracias to Irene for introducing me to this fantastic tradition!

Which sculpture did you like best?

Long live vegetables and ¡Viva México! ¡Olé! –Rebecca

Rebecca Cuningham

16 thoughts on “December 23: Night of the Radishes?

  1. It seems unfair to choose one because they are all so amazing. Who would ever have thought that radishes could produce such work. I’ll vote for Nuestra Señora de Soledad as it seems the most accomplished but all deserve a prize.

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  2. This is INSANE! Never knew that radishes could be made into such detailed figurines! The one of the leopard and Nuestra Señora de Soledad al Pie de la Cruz, La Patrona de Oaxaca are stunning, and I wish I had the artisanship to craft such lovely carvings! Thanks for sharing this unique tradition. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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