Happy Holidays: Night of the Radishes

Giant red tubers grown for Noches de las Rabanos

A friend who emigrated to Oaxaca, Mexico some years ago recently sent out her Christmas newsletter and shared a number of the colorful local Yuletide traditions. But as a gardener and an artist this one astonished and delighted me: “La Noche de los Rábanos.”

Virgin de las Juquila Flickr Photo by Yaya Dada

Each December 23rd in Oaxaca City’s main plaza (the zocalo) thousands of people come for an exhibition of sculptures made from a large red radish. By large they mean up to 6.6 pounds and/or 20 inches in length! These root veggies are the familiar red skinned, white fleshed radish we often snack on, but grow in unusual shapes and to grand proportions.

The carving of radishes creates an interplay of red and white that is used to portray Christmas scenes and everything else you can imagine. Particularly amazing are the representations of lace and other costuming, as well as the portrayal of the beloved local Virgins of Guadalupe, Juquila and Soledad.

Surfer Dudes on Radish Waves Flickr photo by shadowplay

But just google images for “La Noche de los Rábanos” and you will see elaborate tableaus, hilarious interpretations (surfing on radishes) and depictions of everyday life. The architecture is particularly amazing and amusing.

Soon I am off to the garden where I will harvest beets, carrots and daikon radish, my final crops of the year. My daikons grew huge, the discovery of a new crop that is happy in our wierd clay soils, so I will certainly plant them again. But alas, they have no festive red rinds to carve.

May your Holidays be Merry and Bright, and may all your radishes be (red and ) white!

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