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An Interesting Holiday - Night of the Radishes, Mexico

An Interesting Holiday - Night of the Radishes, Mexico
An Interesting Holiday - Night of the Radishes, Mexico

Mexico has a lot of colorful and grandiose festivals, but one of the most unique of them all is the Night of the Radishes which combines folk art and agriculture.

The Night of the Radishes or Noche de Los Rábanos in Spanish is an event being held every year on the 23rd of December in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. The event is a competition of carving oversized radishes in various categories and has been the main point of Christmas celebrations in Oaxaca for more than a century.

This festival of the Radishes started when market sellers at the Christmas market in Zócalo the main square of Oaxaca City would carve radishes to attract buyers. After which in 1897, it was declared by then Municipal President Francisco Vasconcelos that there will be an official radish-carving competition. Since then it became a tradition before Christmas being held every year.

There are various competition categories that participants can enter. There is a Free category where they can carve anything they like. There is also the Traditional category which is the more popular choice. In this category, participants will have to carve on their radish something that reflects the Oaxacan culture and tradition. Also included are two more categories specifically for children to join. Aside from radish carving categories, there are two more non-radish competitions which are the dried flowers or flor inmortal and corn husks or totomoxtle.

In order to ensure a fair competition, the radishes for the event are cultivated by the government on a piece of land near El Tequio Park close to the city's airport. The participants will then head to the plot assigned to them to harvest their radish usually around December 18 or four days before the festival. The participants have a plot number designated for them which is usually based on the order from when they signed up for the competition.

Radishes being used for the event are not the ones you will find in the supermarket. They are specially produced for the competition being heavily fertilized so that they can grow big in size and perfect for carving. These radishes are not for consumption because aside from being full of fertilizer, they are also left in the ground for more than three months, longer compared to when they are being used as food.

More than 100 participants competing for a cash prize will then spend five days before Christmas for the competition. One day is allotted for harvesting, another day for cleaning the radishes, two days for carving and the last day for placing them on display. However, the display only lasts for a few hours because the radishes wilt easily after cutting.

The event is very popular and attracts over 100 contestants and thousands of visitors that line up to see the carved works on display. After the long lines, the judges which are mostly local officials and luminaries will then announce the winners. The winner of the best-carved radish will take home more than $1,000 in cash.

Aside from the radish carving contest, there are also other festivities like the Pageants, Christmas Posadas wherein families go door to door searching for shelter, Big Head parade wherein neighborhood churches will decorate a float going around Zocalo before the mass and other colorful and festive traditions.

Also included in the celebrations are fireworks, booths selling various items as well as food carts selling buñuelos or fried pastries coated with syrup and esquites or spicy grilled Mexican street corn.

What started as a way for market sellers to attract customers has now become an annual festival that locals can enjoy a few days before Christmas.

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