What is the Oaxaca Night of the Radishes festival?
The Oaxaca Night of the Radishes Festival is a 125-year-old Christmastime tradition held in the main square (Zócalo), inviting artists to exhibit their talents with sculptures crafted with radishes.
Oaxaca’s main square transforms into an art museum for La Noche de Rábanos where you can find radish sculptures made by hand in every shape and form.
Some of the sculptures include architectural sites, alligators, dragons, local celebrities, patron saints and renditions of Michelangelo’s La Pieta and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper – carved from oversized red, pink and purple radishes.
Since Oaxaca is a predominantly catholic community, the themes of the sculptures are often religious, allowing artists to pay homage to their patron saints.
La Noche de Rábanos or Night of the Radishes was introduced back in 1897 by then-mayor Francisco Vasconcelos as a strategy to revitalize the local economy and bring more business and attention to the Christmas markets.
Where do they celebrate Night of the Radishes?
The Night of the Radishes 2023 will be celebrated in the Zócalo, also known as Plaza de la Constitución in Oaxaca City centro.
Some of the entertainment includes special events such as concerts and light shows which are held all over the city.
The radish sculpture competition is held in the main square, and attendees can watch the artists at work throughout the day.
When did the radish competition begin?
The historical origins of the radish competition are traced back to the 18th Century when two Dominican monks surprised Oaxacan residents with giant-sized radishes.
These odd-looking vegetables attracted many onlookers to the Christmas markets, resulting in record sales for the local artisans and farmers.
Over the years, radish-themed spectacles became a Christmastime tradition in Oaxaca, especially in the Nativity scene displays.
In 1897, Francisco Vasconcelos, Oaxaca’s Municipal President, turned the tradition into an official competition, held annually on December 23rd.
The 2023 Night of the Radishes Festival is a much more modernized version of the original tradition with artists now having a wide variety of categories, figures and shapes to choose from when sculpting their submissions.
Where to stay for Night of the Radishes?
The Night of the Radishes Oaxaca 2023 will be taking place in the zócalo (center square) of Oaxaca City on December 23rd.
If you’re planning on attending the 2023 La Noche de Rábanos event, we highly recommend that you book your accommodations well in advance as the city will be packed with both domestic and international visitors for the event as well as Christmas.
We recommend booking a hotel in downtown Oaxaca City for the radish festival. Here are our top picks:
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Hotel Rating: 5.0 ⭐️ (Read Reviews)
Casa de la Asuncion
Top Rated, Centrally Located Hotel in Oaxaca City
Casa de la Asuncion has 16th-century roots with its name inspired from Oaxaca Cathedral, which is located 0.18 mi (0.3 km) from the property.
Each of the seven rooms has an unique name — Suite Amatista, Ambar, Aguamarina, Coral, Diamante, Esmeralda, and Malaquita.
Rooms include free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a mini bar, workspace, private shower, and a television.
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Hotel Rating: 4.8 ⭐️ (Read Reviews)
Top Rated, Boutique Hotel in Oaxaca City
Casa Antonieta combines modern-style accommodations with Oaxacan furnishings. Oaxaca International Airport is conveniently located 3.7 mi (6 km) from Casa Antonieta.
There are a variety of rooms to choose from including standard, suite, or junior suite room accommodations.
Enjoy free Wi-Fi, cable television, private bathroom, air conditioning, an open closet wardrobe, and a wooden-style kitchenette. Continental breakfast is included here.
How is the Night of the Radishes celebrated?
La Noche de Rábanos begins in the morning when the artists start setting up their spaces to work on their sculptures.
In order to qualify for the competition, the artists must use specific radishes grown and supplied by the government. These radishes are different from the usual crop, much bigger in size and length.
The artists work on their sculptures until nightfall; attendees can watch them sculpt the intricate details of each design up close.
The Night of the Radishes also features light shows, fireworks and concerts held at multiple venues around the city. The competition gets underway at night when the masterpieces are finished, and judges stroll through the square to select the winners.
What happens during the Night of the Radishes?
The Night of the Radishes involves a sculpting competition, elaborate light shows, fireworks and concerts held throughout the city.
The artists participating in the competition start working on their sculptures early in the morning, while the winners are announced at night.
Attendees can stroll through the main square to marvel at the talents of the local artists, watch the sculpture-making process and enjoy an assortment of local fares and treats sold by street vendors.
What are some fun facts about the Night of the Radishes?
Inspired by two Dominican Monks
According to the local legend, two Dominican monks encouraged local Zapotec and Mixtec farmers to grow radishes, among other fruits and vegetables, to eat and sell at the local markets.
During the mid-18th Century, Oaxaca’s farmer’s market was near the cathedral, present-day Zocalo (main square), and the two monks surprised the locals with massive, odd-shaped radishes at Christmastime.
The locals, shocked at the sight of the unusually large and wonky radishes, branded the purple produce as “demons” and “monsters”.
People from all over the city and nearby villages gathered at the Christmas market to behold the demonic radishes, resulting in record sales for the local farmers and traders.
Over time, what was originally meant to stimulate the local economy slowly became a Christmastime tradition for all to enjoy.
Oaxaca’s Wood Carving Traditions
La Noche de Rábanos also takes root in Oaxaca’s long-standing history of artisanal crafts and wood carving traditions, dating back to the time of the Zapotecs and Mixtec peoples.
At some point in history, the artisans and wood carvers began experimenting with other materials, including clay, corn and radishes.
Not your Everyday Radish
The radishes used to create the sculptures are strikingly different from the radishes we buy from the local supermarket.
These radishes have an unusually odd shape, and the government cultivates them for three months, specifically for the competition.
These radishes are huge, around 30 inches long and weigh over 6.5 pounds. Some radishes can be as big as a human head, and since they’re meant for carving, the taste profile is not ideal for consumption.
Two Radish-Carving Categories
The Night of the Radishes 2023 competition allows artists to compete in two primary categories: free and traditional.
The free category allows artists to create whatever they would like, while those competing in the traditional category must create sculptures that reflect Oaxaca culture, heritage and religious values.
Other Crafts & Categories
Artists can compete in two other categories: corn husks and dried flowers. The participants create dolls crafted with corn husks and displays created with dried flowers.
Why did Night of the Radishes start?
The origins of the Night of the Radishes can be traced back to the 18th Century, when radishes were first introduced in Mexico by the Spanish.
This tradition is regarded as a combination of Oaxaca’s rich local produce and long-standing wood carving traditions.
The elaborately carved radish sculptures were used as a strategy to attract customers to visit the Christmas markets which were located in Oaxaca’s center square.
How do I get to the Night of the Radishes?
Planning on attending Night of the Radishes this year? If you’re flying into Oaxaca City, you should consider pre-booking your transportation to save time and avoid the hassles of haggling with taxis.
Once you’re in Oaxaca City, head to the main square, also referred to as Plaza de la Constitución and Zócalo.
What city holds the “noche de rabanos” celebration every Christmas?
Oaxaca City holds an annual traditional celebration known as Noche de Rabanos or Night of Radishes.
What are the prizes for Night of the Radishes?
The judges select three winners from each category, traditional and free, awarding them a cash prize ranging from $12,000 to $30,000 pesos ($650 USD – $1,600 USD)