Radishes came to Mexico along with Spanish missionaries in the 16th century. Once they found their way to the local markets of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, farmers would carve patterns on the vegetables to attract customers to their shops. Soon it became a recognised local tradition and, in 1897, the town’s mayor turned it into an official Christmas-time celebration.
On Noche de Rabanos or the Night of Radishes on 23 December each year, the zocalo or town square is lined with elaborate scenes carved out of the root vegetables. Radishes that grow up to two feet and weigh three kilos are cultivated especially for this. Nativity scenes, Mayan symbols and imagery, and local flora and fauna usually dominate the scene, but occasionally there are elaborate architectural wonders as well. Artists, amateurs, and enthusiastic locals compete for the cash prizes that go to the best exhibitions. Celebrations continue into the following day when floats of elaborately carved radishes created by local churches are paraded around the main square.