A nativity scene in radish.  Mostly.

A nativity scene in radish (mostly)

No one knows just why, over 116 years ago, the people of Oaxaca began celebrating Christmas by carving radishes into whatever struck their fancy.  Maybe it was a bumper crop of this root vegetable, which, by the way, isn’t even indigenous to the Mexican state. (“Neither is Santa Claus,” said Gabriel Martinez, a writer and brewer who lives in Santa Monica.)


Regardless, it’s impossible for someone of Oaxacan descent to imagine the holiday without this tradition. For the last ten years here in Los Angeles, the Oaxacan community has gathered to celebrate the  Noche de Rábanos, or Night of the Radishes, to make sure their American-born children carry it on. “There are about 300 pounds of radishes to be carved in whatever figures,” said Martinez, “just not obscene objects, though.”

Though it takes place on December 23rd back in Mexico, the festival occurred Sunday night at Mercado la Paloma, the culinary and cultural center near USC.

Here’s a snapshot:


Radishes carved and ready for a party.

Radishes carved and ready for a party.

300 pounds of radishes, available for carving

300 pounds of radishes, available for carving


Dance and music were also on the program


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  • Lynda said:

    interesting. my only complaint was why didn't the person documenting the night take pictures of any of the finished products? (minus the title picture)

  • Caitlin Shamberg
    caitlinshamberg said:

    We added a few more photos. Next year we'll make to bring a better camera!

  • Gabriel Martinez said:

    This cultural event serves as a platform so that the participants can manifest their vision and creativity by carving unique landscapes, scenes and figurines. Among the objects carved this year was a priceless figurine … Zapotec God of the Corn, known as "Pitao Cozobi" which won first place. La Noche de Rabanos also serves as a space for dialogue about Native Americans/Zapotec mythological Gods of the agriculture that otherwise we don’t see at the museums, schools… and sure churches; Gabriel Martinez.

  • humanwritesblog said:

    Here's an album of pics I took at the event. It was a blast! :) Thanks for covering it.

  • praddy said:

    nice way to celebrate, didn't know much about this unique tradition of celebration. I been reading few of the blogs where people are celebrating on there own unique way like this one.

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