Night of Radishes December 23

The “Noche de Rábanos” (Night of the Radishes) is a pagan-religious festival held each year in Oaxaca City on 23 December. During this event Oaxacans use tradition and memory to transform horticultural products into statues, as a demonstration of their folklore and customs.

The celebration of the Night of Radishes was born in the shadow of the colonial Hispanic culture. The people of Oaxaca have preserved it with all its color and tradition, recalling a mythical past: mixture of Christianity and indigenous, an amalgam that consummated the spiritual conquest of the indigenous dreamer and believer.

Night of Radishes December 23

Every December 23, since 1897, Oaxaca City celebrates the Night of Radishes in the Zocalo of Oaxaca City with a very colorful folk festival. Gardeners, citizens and tourists gather to partake in this exhibition, which is an example of the local creativity.

From the kiosk at the Jardín Central, the State Music Band interprets musical compositions of national and Oaxacan authors to enliven the visitors’ stroll during the event. The “Noche de los Rabanos” initiates December holidays for the local citizens and for all those belonging to the periphery of Ocotlan de Morelos, San Antonino Castillo Velasco, San Sebastián, San Agustin Etla, etcetera.

Night of Radishes December 23

It includes the surrounding barrios of the capital city, the initiators of this tradition: Consolation, Xochimilco, Trinidad de las Huertas, etcetera, who year after year participate in the development and exhibition of traditional, artistic and contemporary creative figures made with radishes, immortal flowers and totomoxtle (dry corn leaves), unique for this occasion.

Radish planting begins in September and considers two varieties: Bartender and Champion, the first is a variety of tuber that takes about 90 days to reach its ideal size, -an average of 90 centimeters-, and the second is a small size tuber and round with a growing cycle of 40 days. The seeding process for the Night of Radishes considers three types of radish: Bartender large, Bartender medium and the traditional Champion.

Night of Radishes December 23

Three planting periods are calculated: September 20 and October 26, to achieve the medium and large size of the Bartender radish, and November 12 for the Champion radish, periods that also involve maintenance, collection and delivery of the raw materials to the participants.

The cooperation of the Municipality of the City of Oaxaca and the gardeners belonging to the Secretariat of Agricultural Development, Forestry and Fisheries of the State Government, coordinated by the Head of the Department of the Park “The Tequio” is fundamental. During the past 20 years, they have provided participants with the raw material needed for the preparation of such traditional figures. It is important to note that the SEDAF provides 5,000 square meters of land located within the area for experimental crops, technical assistance, as well as machinery and irrigation water for the growing of radishes. The Municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez not only coordinates the event, it also provides inputs and employs the workforce.

Night of Radishes December 23

Night of Calendas, December 24

The calendas events precede Christmas Eve and they transport us to the distant times the deeply religious city of Oaxaca. The calendas of America, according to the technical historic and bibliographical music dictionary, are dances that the Spanish brought us on their arrival.

They present, within the scope of their components, the so-called “the Giant Calenda Dolls”, whose mission is to interpret dances. Besides the characteristic that a calenda is an homage to the saints listed in the Roman calendar, it has been proven that its origin is Spanish and it was customized by our people.

On the night of December 24, Oaxacan popular devotion can be seen on the streets of the city as a participation of universal joy for the birth of Jesus. Each respective temple organizes its own “Calenda” with lanterns of a distinctive color, accompanying the Baby Jesus, the procession led by his “godmothers”. The tour through the city begins at 8 pm. It walks around the Zócalo heading towards the godmother’s house, to render the traditional rites.

About 11 PM, all the “Calendas” meet around the old “Plaza de Armas”: a sight of indescribable animation, an original spectacle of lyrical processions to the eyes of friends and strangers. Some pass by in a simple lantern procession, as in the old tradition style. After the lamps follow the people with badges that bear the respective name of their temple, followed by the classic symbolic shepherds or three wise men walking or riding a horse.

The calenda closes the procession with women escorting the “godmothers” that carry the Jesus child figure in their arms. Nowadays, calendas are accompanied by sumptuous floats. When the old Cathedral clock indicates 12 AM, Each calenda tuck parades toward the direction of their corresponding temple to attend the celebration of the traditional Misa de Gallo mass, where the crowd has gathered in a fervent act of worship towards the divine infant born in a manger.

Christmas in Oaxaca

Posadas and “Nacimientos” (Nativity Scenes)

In many Oaxacan homes, one of the most exceptional celebrations during Christmas Eve is the placement of nativity scenes. These are dramatizations of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. In the Compañía block, typical stands sell little clay figures representing the characters of the Nativity: baby Jesus, St. Joseph, the Virgin, the three kings, the shepherds, various small animals, tiny huts, barns, gates, hay, moss and everything needed to build a Nativity scene.

Nativity scenes are set in visible places, where they can draw the attention of passers-by. People stop to see these majestic exhibitions commemorating the birth of Jesus. Despite their local character and its undeniable originality, the traditional “Nacimientos” of Oaxaca share a profound meaning with Latin traditions.

Christmas in Oaxaca


Within Christmas sacramental acts, biblical themes of Adam and Eve were recreated as a graphic explanation of the fall of man, besides the adoration of the shepherds and the Three Kings. These plays, which were interpreted in native languages with music and great pomp, were a huge audiovisual teaching for the catechized. They remained as a permanent memory in the sensitivity of the indigenous, always receptive to all artistic expressions. The custom of the pastorelas was established in many areas of Oaxaca and continued represented in Castilian after the consummation of evangelization. Nowadays, pastorelas are staged in some cultural locations of the city.

Christmas in Oaxaca