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Pictures: Festival of the Radishes for Culture Trip

December 23rd is Noche de los Rabanos in Oaxaca City (Night of the Radishes), a Christmastime festival that has no match in oddity and creativity anywhere else in Mexico. Wild animals, the Virgin of Guadalupe, mythical creatures and scenes of everyday Oaxacan life are all represented in shades of magneta and cream in the form of local radishes grown solely for the occasion—it’s a comical, whismical and edible time.

The tradition of holding an yearly radish carving competition dates back to 1897 when Oaxaca City’s mayor, Francisco Vasconcelos, decided to make the contest part of that year’s Christmas market, which sold traditional flowers, herbs and ingredients for holiday dishes as well as decorations for the home. Because radishes had always been integral to Oaxaca’s Christmas cuisine as both an essential ingredient and a decorative garnish, the radish contest was seen as a fun way to promote local agriculture.

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