Do you think of radishes when you think of Christmas? Me neither. Until now. I was reading around a little this weekend looking for different plants I might try out this year that have a Christmas connection. I was much surprised to find a good bit about the Christmas role of the radish! La Noche de Rabanos, Night of the Radishes, is an annual festival held in Oaxaca, Mexico. The focal point of the festival is the carved radish competition. Artisans and locals work to create elaborate and detailed scenes made out of large radishes. The carvings take on all manner of looks: a nativity, folklore, historic scenes, and even models of buildings. The carvings are presented on the afternoon of December 23rd. The displays only last a few hours, but the fun continues through to Christmas Day. There are parades with floats, dances, feasts, and fireworks. The celebrations began in 1827 and in 2013 will mark their 115th occurence. NPR’s blog The Salt had a good write-up on the happenings in 2012- check it out at Here Comes the Radish People.
A specific type of radish is grown for the event. It is allowed to grow underground far past the usual harvest time. They are dug up the week before the festival. The radishes can weigh as much as 7 pounds and reach almost 2 feet in length. The practice of carving radishes goes back to the 16th century. Vendors used carvings as ways to catch the attention of shoppers for their wares. Today’s festival also has displays using dried flowers and corn husks. Radishes rate top though. The first place display wins a prize of around $1,300 US. Not sure we’re ready to enter something just yet, but sounds like a good goal for 2014!!