wed 22/05/2024

Noche de Rabanos, Oaxaca, Mexico | reviews, news & interviews

Noche de Rabanos, Oaxaca, Mexico

Noche de Rabanos, Oaxaca, Mexico

The Night of Radishes is a sculpture exhibition with a difference

The Virgin of Soledad, Oaxaca's patron saint - radish style

Tonight, 23 December, is a significant night for culture in Oaxaca, Mexico – it’s the Noche de Rabanos. The Night of the Radishes. Thousands of people descend into the zocalo to witness sculptures carved from extremely large radishes, especially grown for the occasion.  It was certainly one of the most memorable Christmas exhibitions I’ve seen.

radish_church_jpgCompetition is fierce for the first prize and the spread in the morning paper. The prize was 13,000 pesos or about 700 pounds. Typical scenes sculpted are of the Nativity and other religious themes, but there are others depicting political or domestic scenes.  The most impressive one I saw was of Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican revolutionary. Under Christmas lights, the different sculptures have a radiant, surreal quality. Fireworks after midnight signal the end of the proceedings. The lovingly made sculptures only exist for a matter of hours.

radish_nativity_scene_noche-de-rabanos-htWhile the birth of the Festival is unclear, in the 19th century Christmas Eve markets sold salted dried fish and a variety of vegetables for the family dinner after midnight mass. Vendors began sculpting radishes which adorned the Christmas Eve tables. It also appears that monks encouraged local artisans in the art of radish carving at least two centuries before that (the vegetable originates from China, and was brought to Mexico by the Spaniards). In 1897, the mayor of Oaxaca inaugurated the first exhibition of radish art. Christmas in Oaxaca without the radishes would now be unthinkable.

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