Radishes are a crunchy vegetable that are good on a salad, but did you know that they play an important role in an unusual festival in Oaxaca, Mexico?
The Night of the Radishes, Oaxaca, Mexico
The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Rabanos) takes place on December 23rd in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca. During this special event, the entire city is taken over by elaborate and detailed sculptures carved from radishes by local artisans.
The tradition of radish carving in Oaxaca dates back to the 16th century, shortly after the Spanish conquered Mexico. Every year the local artisans will choose their radishes, which are grown in a special field for this particular event. Then, they will spend days sculpting incredibly detailed figures and scenes. The radish sculptures will be displayed in the town square and they will be voted upon by judges.
The radishes are extremely large and the skill with which they are carved is quite impressive. These are no ordinary radishes, they are up to two feet in length and they can weigh up to 5-10 pounds. For example, you might see the skirt of a dancing figure carved like lace, with dozens of tiny perforations and eyelets. Sometimes the carvings will depict historical events, village scenes, mythical events and other popular stories and scenes.
Many people visit Oaxaca in order to view the range of folk art that this region is known for. The indigenous people here have retained their ancient customs and there are more different types of arts and crafts here than any other region. Visiting during the Night of the Radishes festival will give you a chance to see these impressive works of vegetable art, as well as many of the locals arts and crafts sold there.
The Night of the Radishes event will attract more than 100 participants who will come not only from the city of Oaxaca but also from the neighbouring communities. The radish sculptures will be judged and the winner will receive a prize of 15,000 pesos. There are also many other prizes for participants, as well as prizes of school supplies and bicycles for the children’s category. In recent years the event has also included prizes for other categories, such as scenes from dried corn husks and dried flowers.
You could pay a lot of money for an expensive tour to attend the Night of the Radishes, or you could simply fly to Oaxaca on your own and stay at one of the hotels near the town square. This is a very popular festival, so it important to note that there may be wait times of as long as 4-5 hours to see all of the entries through. However, these amazing radish sculptures are certainly worth waiting for!
If you are travelling through Mexico, make sure that you head down to this region right before Christmas so that you can enjoy this unique and strange festival – the only radish themed festival in the world!