An elaborate carving for Night of the Radishes in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Family Vacations in Mexico: Day of the Dead and Night of the Radishes Festivals

If your family vacation in Mexico takes you to the Pacific coast, be sure to visit Oaxaca. Located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca on the Pacific coast, the city of Oaxaca is known for its artistically carved wood figurines, its coffee, and its enthusiastic celebration of two very unusual festivals: Day of the Dead and Night of the Radishes.

Day of the Dead may sound like a somber affair, but in Mexico it's a joyful and cherished celebration that honors the spirits of deceased family members and friends. This tradition is celebrated with great enthusiasm, artistry, and spirituality in Oaxaca. The town's marketplace comes alive on October 31 with handcrafted decorations and homemade treats that are used to decorate the graves of loved ones. On that night, families head to the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves; they then stay up all night to welcome the souls. Elaborate, multicolor sand paintings are fashioned on top of, or next to, the graves, and the cemetery glows with candlelight throughout the night.

The festival known as Night of the Radishes began about 100 years ago during the Christmas season. Vegetable growers attempting to attract customers seized the idea of carving designs into their produce. The large variety of radishes grown in Mexico proved to be easy to carve. The practice became an annual tradition, and with it grew a friendly competition that has evolved into the annual Night of the Radishes Festival.

Beginning at midday on December 23, Oaxaca's town square is turned into a fantasyland of intricately carved radishes. The creativity that goes into the displays is amazing. Depictions of the Nativity, elaborate market scenes, and lively mariachi bands are just a few of the finished products your family with find on display. Help for novice radish carvers is available in a designated beginner's area. And in case the kids haven't already had enough fun, the evening concludes with a fireworks celebration.

For even more amazing sights, check out the next page to learn where you can see whales during your family vacation in Mexico.

Mexican Vacation Information

Mexico Tourism Board - Los Angeles

Address: 1880 Century Park East, Suite 511

Los Angeles, CA 90067

Phone: 310/282-9112

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
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