Oaxaca’s Colorful Christmas Traditions

Oaxaca, Mexico with its vibrant indigenous art is colorful any time of year, but Christmas in this southeastern Mexico town and its surrounding pueblos brings an extra dose of exuberance, religious tradition and family celebration.

The Posadas begin on December 16th, parades of families who wind through the streets making their way to a neighborhood church. The largest posada happens on Christmas Eve when neighborhood posadas converge in the zocalo to circle it before parading to their neighborhood church for midnight mass. Arrive at the zocala by 7pm for a good seat to the festivities.

December 23rd is the Night of the Radishes celebration, a 120 year old tradition of local artists carving extra large radishes into scenes depicting traditional Oaxaca (the Nativity, churches, people in traditional clothing) or contemporary scenes (the 2018 displays included a memorial to Stephen Hawking and another of fantastical dragons entitled the Apocolypse). The night is accompanied by music and fireworks. The displays are set up on the morning of December 23rd and draw crowds all day so to avoid the extra long lines at night, arrive early to see the artwork.

In the week leading up to Christmas local markets, street vendors and stores overflow with colorful textiles, wooden creatures called alebrijes, pottery, handmade tin Christmas decorations, nativity scenes and food delicacies like tamales and bunuelos, a fried dough covered with cinnamon and sugar. While you can purchase from the stores, a trip to one of more of the surrounding pueblos is far more interesting. There you can visit family workshops, meet the artists and know that the money from your purchase is going directly to the craftspeople who made them.