12 Days of Christmas #11: The Night of the Radishes

I’m writing this from the half-way stop on our epic trek home to my parents house for the Christmas holiday.  In the morning we’ll have to drive north for another four hours or so, depending on the wind and snow, and whether roads stay open.

Welcome to Oaxaca! Image from mexconnect.com

Before we all get overwhelmed by Christmas celebrations, I have to mention a fantastic festival I discovered that takes place every 23rd of December, in Oaxaca City, Mexico. Tonight is the Night of the Radishes, Noche de Rábanos, (not the title of a low budget horror film) a festival which attracts thousands of people each year, often spilling over onto Christmas eve and Christmas day.

Celebrations often include a float parade, street parties, firework displays and musical performances. The centrepiece of the event is an exhibition of sculptures crafted from specially-grown radishes.

You might be forgiven for thinking that a radish is far too tiny to carve, but these giants are left in the ground for months after the harvest, continuing to grow until they reach sizes of up to half a metre long and up to 3kg in weight, contorted into weird and wonderful shapes. Sculptors carve the vegetables into human figures, nativity scenes, dioramas of folktales, and scale models of real buildings and compete for a grand prize worth thousands of Pesos

Christmas isn’t Christmas without some skeletons carved from root vegetables. Image from soiledandseeded.com
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12 Days of Christmas #4: The Christmas Star Scandal

This morning I read a report about a very festive extortion scam happening in Italy.  Four alleged mafiosi have been arrested in Naples, charged with forcing shop owners to buy poinsettias for more than 100times the wholesale price.

The gangsters had been demanding as much as 100 Euros (£85) per plant for the past few years.  Police said that business owners refusing the “special offer” had their shops vandalised and stock stolen or damaged.

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Dem Dry Bones

Skeletons at Dia de Muertos by Guago on Flickr

Whilst writing yesterday’s post about my memories of Halloween as a child, I learned about another spooky date in the calender.  El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead in English, is a two day festival that takes place on 1st and 2nd November each year in countries around the world, especially throughout Latin America.  Whilst superficially the two festivals may appear similar, with the array of skulls and skeletons in their imagery, the Day of the Dead has a rich history of its own. Continue reading