Noche de los Rabanos
We’ve told this story a few times on social media and in a farm newsletter to folks on our mailing list, but we’re going to tell the story again here for posterity-sake. And because we plan to do this again next year, it will be nice to have a proper log of the very start of this tradition. . . so, if you’ve read this before, stick around. There’s a little more history detail coming your way in this post.
So, what is Noches de los Rabanos? Translated from Spanish to English, it’s “Night of the Radishes” and it’s a holiday/competition celebrated in in Oaxaca, Mexico during which competitors carve a governmentally-allotted number of radishes (no, really) into themed tableaus. We had never heard of it before this year, and only came across it through the magic of the internet while searching for ways to make a few wayward team members love radishes (some of our staff, sadly, are repulsed by the taste of radishes).
The founding myth of Noches de los Rabanos is that there was a particularly good radish harvest in Oaxaca one year and a whole acre went unharvested. The local friars dug them up later and found that they had grown huge and into very unusual shapes. Delighted by the strange appearance of the radishes, they brought a number of them to the farmer’s Christmas market as oddites and that morphed quickly into a carving competition. It feels like there are some narrative points left out of that story. . .
But we do know that the very first competitive Noches de los Rabanos took place in Oaxaca on December 23, 1897. It was started by the city’s mayor and has been a civic competition on the 23rd of December every single year since its inception. And by all accounts it’s wildly popular. Last year, nearly 100 adult contestants participated and 100+ youth and children. The line for visitors to wait to see all of the contestant’s entries took 4-5 hours to get through. The city actually grows radishes specifically for the competition that are carefully monitored throughout the growing season.
It seems like such a joyous thing, this carving of radishes into Ladies of Gaudaloupe, posadas, and Days of the Dead just a few days before Christmas—celebrating the harvest and farmers and the imagination of a city.
Is there anything better to discover on the internet? If so, we haven’t found it yet
So, almost immediately, we decided that we would honor Noches de los Rabanos as a team here at Carriage House Farm. As newbies, we were so glad not to be competing with anyone else or to have a government-allotment of radishes. A number of our first attempts at carving went straight to compost. We put our theme to a vote on facebook, and our social media community decided we would be carving a beekeeping tableau.
We came together on December 21st (after all, we didn’t want to steal any attention away from Oaxaca’s competition on the 23rd). We brought some of our kids. We brought some of our dogs. We brought a human’s weight worth of homemade cookies and desserts to nosh on. And we sat down for a few hours with one another to turn radishes into flowers and bees and hives and beekeepers to build our very first Noches de Los Rabanos tableau.
We’re super proud of the final product. We had an amazing time doing it. There was tons of laughter and surprisingly few carving injuries. And best of all? Every last one of us now has a reason to love radishes.
It’s a Christmas miracle. Ta Da.