The Night of the Radishes.
Published on Tuesday, 02 September 2014 15:38
By Lumina N. Schafrath
If you aren’t particularly all ho, ho, ho about Christmas then Oaxaca won’t let you down during the season. Instead of decking the halls with holly, think about using radishes as your holiday motif.
Legend has it that 350 years ago two Dominican monks came up with a marketing idea designed to help indigenous farmers market their produce. They came up with a plan to have the farmers carve their beets, radishes, and carrots into fantastic shape. Thus was born the “Night of the Radishes” a unique festival celebrating food as folk art.
Celebrated on December 23, the fiesta lasts only a few hours. But what a few hours those are. Since 1897 when the festival was taken over by the Oaxaca City Municipal Government thousands of visitors have ventured to the colonial capital for the unusual celebration.
Visitors who parade through the Zocalo will see radishes sculpted into everything from busts of Maria Sabina, the famed curadnera, to exquisitely detailed figures of Gueleguetza dancers. The radishes, which are specially grown for the occasion, are not consumable, but are heavily treated with additives so that they can reach their colossal size, which sometimes reaches 40 inches.
These days the radishes are in addition to the displays of radishes, artisans will compete in two other categories – dried flowers and corn husks. But without question the radishes are the big draw at the festival. These days they are cultivated in a park by the airport. The harvest takes place on December 18th, and the artisans have five days in which to complete their artworks.
There is big money at stake in the contest. The grand prize is $10,000 pesos. But merely for participating, and you have to be selected to participate, you will receive $400 pesos.
But don’t leave the Zocalo after viewing the radishes. The fiesta, one of Oaxaca’s most spectacular will continue on until midnight with a fantastic display of fireworks, and this is a city that loves fireworks, at 11 p.m.
Following the fiesta, meander back home and enjoy a rich cup of chocolate before going to sleep.
December 24th is Calendas Night, all churches from the city parade from 7 until midnight through the principal streets.