Night of the Radishes 2023, Festive Unique Celebration in Mexico December 23rd brings many Christmas traditions to light, but non so unique as the Night of the Radishes or ‘Noche de Los Rábanos’ in Oaxaca City in Mexico. Fields of festival radishes are grown so that the residents can carve them into human-like characters, entered […]Night of the Radishes 2023 Oaxaca City, Mexico Oaxaca City Oaxaca Mexico
December 23rd brings many Christmas traditions to light, but non so unique as the Night of the Radishes or ‘Noche de Los Rábanos’ in Oaxaca City in Mexico. Fields of festival radishes are grown so that the residents can carve them into human-like characters, entered into competition and are enjoyed in displays for 12 hours, until the radishes inevitably turn brown.
In a bid to make vegetables fun, one mayor 120 years ago decided to turn competitive vegetable growers nativity scene carvings into a whole out Christmas celebration. Now thousands of people flock to the city’s Christmas festivities on the 23rd of December, to enjoy the pop culture references in the incredibly detailed large radish characters and scenes that have been carved as well as the Christmas market, fresh food, music and Christmas trees and decorations. The city is filled with colour!
“Enjoy admiring complex carvings made out of large radishes, while enjoying music, fireworks and amazing foods at Oaxaca City’s famed Christmas Market.”
Walk down long market stalls, each one containing a scene and models carved out of radishes of all shapes and sizes. The radishes that are grown can get quite large. While there are many Nativity scenes, there are many modern pop culture references and decoration made out of other vegetables, which complement the models and scenes.
All the while, the model creators are spraying their creations with mists of water to keep them fresh, as judges go around to select winners of many different categories. All the while, Christmas music plays overhead, there is fresh food and drinks on offer in shops and from street traders, there are huge Christmas trees, revolving and decorated. It’s Christmas, with radishes and no snow!
The competition is entered into by everyone from children to master carvers, and with 30,000 pesos on offer in prize money, its easy to see why! The city is not only decorated for Christmas, but decorated in colourful flowers and streamers with piñatas and wandering costumed performers. It’s a happy and relaxed festival that the whole family can enjoy.
The Main Plaza in Oaxaca City is where all the action is. The earlier you get there, the more you will see as the crowds do get heavy between 4pm and 9pm
Well if you aren’t a fan of crowds, you can wander around to look at the models during the day, you wont find lines then because most of the crowds come out at night.
It would be advantageous to get there earlier in the day and really enjoy all the artwork and then come back in the evening, see what you can and enjoy the announcement of the winner, fireworks and music!
Light jackets for rain
Money belts for crowded area
Comfortable shoes, locals wear soft leather
Light pants and long sleeved shirts
Shorts are ok- it still gets to 20 degree Celsius during the day
You do not need tickets to attend, it is a massive free event. Sculptures and scenes are free to be enjoyed by all the crowds. Costs involved is for food, drinks and souvenirs and Christmas shopping.
The Night of the Radishes is the kick-off for the whole of the Christmas festivities in the city, finishing on Christmas Day with a traditional feast.
December 23, 2023 – The entrants begin setting up their carvings from the morning and it is easy to wander around the main plaza from mid- morning up until 4pm.
After 4pm the evening crowds swell and line up to see each section. It’s an enjoyable night, to be out in the fresh air, being entertained and seeing all the sculptures.
At 9pm the winners are announced to the cheering crowd, there is then a firework display and live music that fills the air.
December 24, 2023 – Local churches parade floats through the zócolo (main plaza).
December 25, 2023 – The plaza is lit up with fireworks and is packed full of people enjoying a traditional dinner.
Mexican radishes are bigger than you would expect to see, some over 6 pounds in weight and over 20 inches long. You will be surprised.
Can’t stress enough how much more you get to see if you are there early. Make a whole day of it, morning to night.
Some master carvers have won the competition up to 20 times and are expert artists.
Water is safe to drink in the cafes, you can even ask for ice in your drinks.
While radishes are native to China, Spanish missionaries arrived in the 16th century to Mexico, and so did the radishes.
It is said that there has been a Christmas market in the Main Plaza there for hundreds of years, traditionally selling the radishes that the area is famous for.
The stall holders for many years used to carve vegetables and get a bit competitive among themselves and an enterprising Mayor of the city in 1897 cottoned on to this.
Oaxaca City Mayor Francisco Vasconcelos declared an official carving competition in 1897 with a handsome prize and now the competition has grown immensely for these last 120 years. Large sums of prize money attract artists who on December 18 are allowed to pick up their festival radishes and get cracking!
In the beginning it was only nativity and religious scenes that were depicted, but this has evolved immensely since then, with many pop culture references making their way in, which attracts thousands of people from all over the world to come and have a look at the quirky festival.
While this is the main event at Christmas, Oaxaca City has so many rad things going for it. Colourful streets, amazing nature and scenery, beautiful ancient ruins, even waterfalls can be enjoyed in this area that is attracting visitors in large numbers.
For scenic views, head to the ancient ruined city of Monte Alban. Situated atop the mountain, you will not only admire the clever layout of what was one of the major cultural hotspots of the Zapotecs, but you can admire the 360 degree views. An unbelievable experience.
You can also head to a Mezcal factory, for a tour of how the mexican drink is made and tastings afterwards of course.
Oaxaca’s Ethobotanical Garden is an unusual garden to visit, containing many more cacti than most botanical gardens. If you like your gardens spiky, this is a must see.
Oaxaca is known for its unique food preparations. It’s know for its fresh vegetable growing areas and many other unusual delicacies such as insects.
Drinking chocolate is common in the cafes, they add their own spices and flavourings.
Mezcal is the alcoholic drink native to the area, not to be confused with Tequila, they will be insulted!
Oaxaca Cheese is a delicacy.
Oaxaca has their own style of Tamales and several unique recipes of the reduced and rich Mole sauce that is served over rice.
You can fly into Mexico City from destinations from around the world inclusing Australia, the Uk and Europe. The take an airport bus to Oaxaca City. You can fly to Oaxaca Airport direct from Houston Texas and Los Angeles.
Or fly direct from Mexico City to Oaxaca City. It’s a 5½ hour between Mexico City and Oaxaca City. First class and deluxe modern bus services are in place, yay for air conditioning!
Oaxaca City is a cool place to stay. All the buildings are so colourful, odd shaped and interesting. Finding quirky accommodation will be easy, but most have all the mod cons to keep tourists happy,
Hostel Casa Angel is a must if you are a backpacker. It’s noted to be the best hostel in Oaxaca, no loud and rowdy more lively and entertaining with traditional music and events going on every night. Think Spanish classes, BBQ’s, dancing lessons and social drinks.
They also do walking tours of the city. Included in the room rates, the breakfast is famous, with sausage and eggs, fresh fruit and cereal and wait for it, there’s even a vegan option.
The absolute best way to get around once in the city is by foot. Walking through the colourful tourist friendly city is a breeze or you can hire a bike.
There is one local taxi service in Oaxaca City and a dedicated bus service, but please not they have a reputation for not being on time!
Tourist tour buses can take you out to attractions that lie outside the city.
Plan ahead: Book your perfect trip with our Mexico travel guide and destination information. Does Mexico require a visa? Check the visa requirements before you get caught up during your travel.
Spend money wisely: Take public transport and dine in from time to time are common saving tips during traveling. How to spend money wisely in Mexico? Make use of technology. There’s an app for everything.
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