The sacred “Flower of the Dead” marigold is an important floral feature on colorful altars built by families to celebrate the unique details of their beloved deceased family member’s life. Altars are also designed to guide the deceased to join the Dia de los Muertos family festivities. Traditional altars contain candles, photographs, trinkets of significance, memorabilia, favorite foods, favorite liquor and beverages of the deceased. Altar remembrances often celebrate the life of the departed by exhibiting what they loved in life -- their profession, community, family, hobbies, and even pets. Those on this side of “the veil of life” are reminded that they too will one day pass to the other side where deceased relatives now reside. Throughout Mexico, The United States, and numerous countries around the world families often gather in cemeteries at the grave sites of their departed to honor their loved ones, and celebrate the significance of their legacies.
The English name “Marigold” originates from the Virgin Mary and the beautiful golden color known as (“Mary’s Gold”) was revered by the Aztecs in Mexico. It was wildly used in religious ceremonies. They also utilized the marigold as a medicinal plant, and considered the brilliant flower to contain magical properties.
The Sacred Role Marigolds Play In El Día de Los Muertos
Across the world the marigold flower holds powerful symbolism, and it has become a part of many cultural celebrations throughout its painted history. In the 1500s, Spanish traders carried the humble marigold seed to Europe, then later to Africa. Through breeding programs, the exuberant cheerful marigold, or as it is surprisingly known as the "flower of death" evolved to be perhaps better known as “The African Marigold” and “The French Marigold” and annuals are grown in gardens around the world. The traditional Cempazúchitl Marigold known as Flor de Muerto, "Flower of the Dead" is a large bright orange marigold that blooms on the hillsides of Mexico, particularly in the Central and South regions, in October and November. It is believed that during the traditional celebration Dia de los Muertos, the spirits of the dead are guided by the marigold’s pungent scent to visit the living during the celebration, feasting on their favorite foods, joining in the sweet, light hearted family gatherings honoring them. The flowers’ bright vibrant orange or yellow hues symbolize the sun’s rays and are arranged to light pathways, to adorn Crosses, and decorate offrendas, or home altars.