Christmas with radishes, anyone?
Friday, 5th September 2008
Advent markets, yule logs, mistletoe, gluhwein...and radishes?
Christmas celebrations around the world are as varied and wonderful as the people and cultures who hold them, but there can be few traditions as exotic or unlikely as Mexico’s Noche de Rábanos, or Night of the Radishes.
Held in the country’s bustling southern city of Oaxaca, Noche de Rábanos is a unique Christmas celebration that takes place on December 23rd. As evening falls, the Zócalo (main square) becomes an vibrant pink and white display of radish sculptures ranging from small animals to larger human figures and elaborate reconstructions of events such as the birth of Jesus. Christmas lights form a twinkling canopy as locals and tourists flock from afar to view the display stands that pop up all around the Zócalo, competitors eager to show off their handiwork in the hope of winning a prize and even seeing their sculpture in the paper the next morning.
But what is the relevance of the radish? Radishes were first brought to Mexico by the Spanish, in the 16th century, and it is thought that the idea of carving them into intricate shapes came from a Spanish monk who thought the figures may attract people to the local market. One would assume this was successful, as the event is thought to have continued each year since, although it wasn’t until the late 19th century that it was made official by the Mayor of Oaxaca.
Today it is unmissable festivity in the Oaxacan Christmas calendar, a much-loved event that bring people together and puts the city in true Christmas spirit. Sealed with a sparkling fireworks display, this is one of the simplest but most imaginative Christmas celebrations you’ll see anywhere in the world.
One note: next time you’re eating a radish at home and contemplating your creative skills, bear in mind that the radishes carved in Oaxaca are of impressive proportions. Long, heavy and twisted, they are ideal platforms from which to create all manner of sculpture. That’s not to say you can’t try, though…
Spend Christmas in Oaxaca with Cactus and learn Spanish while you’re at it! Spanish courses are available from £239 for 1 week of 15 lessons, including accommodation and meals with a local family - the perfect way to immerse yourself in the local culture and festivities.