Radishes at Christmas

For 125 years, the Mexican community in Oaxaca has celebrated their agrarian roots with a knock-out display of carved radishes at Christmas time. Radishes grown in Oaxaca are large and curved, similar to some of the sweet potatoes seen in the vegetable bins prior to Thanksgiving in the USA.

Night of the Radishes (in Spanish; Noche de Rábanos) is an annual event on December 23 that brings together around 100 artisans to create their most imaginative vision with the Oaxacan Municipal-grown radishes. Adding to the festive scenes are two separate competitions of dioramas created with corn husks and dried flowers.

Thousands of local residents and tourists line up at the zocalo to see these ephemeral artworks. After cutting and carving, the natural radishes, leaves, and other plants used to make the scenes begin to wilt immediately. The artists can be seen spritzing water on the scenes to lengthen the life of the creation, which usually is less than 8 hours.

Entry celebrating the three religious Virgin Mary figures – note the artist spritzing water on the scene (at right) to keep it fresh.

Most scenes fall within three categories: religious, historical/social commentary, and fantasy.

Scene with historical figures in background wearing bandaleros and sombreros. Note child sitting on the table and taking plates from brother.
This creation is “The Guardian of the Forest” by Oliver Mijangos Amador
A traditional religious veneration of Mary scene.

Although also made with ephemeral natural materials, the corn husk and dried flower creations can be made further in advance and arranged when arriving to their space. The corn husk creation below is a complex commentary on what the community has experienced during the past year.

The community is represented in this scene, complete with the hospital treating COVID-19 patients, to virtual classes, Guelaguetza dancers, food and craft vendors, and the municipal police.
An amazing corn husk recreation of the parade of 8 delegations that begin the annual Guelaguetza every year in their regional dress.
A dried floral arrangement featuring a religious theme: Veneration of the 3 Virgins: Juquila, Soledad and Guadalupe.
This complex scene includes La Sirena (upper left) and Neptune below.
Crowds wait in line for hours to get a close look at the creations.

The State and City of Oaxaca have great pride in Noche de Rábanos and have promoted it through the tourism office to share this cultural tradition with the world.

All photos © Copyright 2022, Linda Marston-Reid.

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