Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated from October 31 to November 2. While many Americans believe that this holiday is similar to our Halloween, it’s completely different. The festivities were created for people to gather and remember friends and family who have died. Though this sounds like a day of grieving, it’s actually meant to be a day to celebrate the lives of the loved ones who have passed. This holiday is deeply rooted in tradition, with plenty of symbols adorning the ofrendas, also known as altars, that people put together for their deceased loved ones. Flowers in particular play a very large role in the celebration of Dia de los Muertos:
Marigolds are one of the most easily recognizable symbols of Dia de los Muertos. There are many reasons that these vibrant blooms are so heavily used in the annual celebration. It is said that these flowers use their color and scent to guide the spirits to their respective altars during Dia de los Muertos. They’re even colloquially known as the “flower of the dead,” despite being such a bright and cheery bloom. If you visit Mexico or neighborhoods heavily populated with people of Mexican descent during the celebration, you’ll likely notice that marigolds are everywhere, in elaborate doorway arches and garlands and adorning the graves of loved ones. Most notably, families stock up on marigolds to decorate the ofrenda in the home, honoring their family members.
Many people even make their own marigolds for the celebration – this is an especially popular project for school-aged children. Using brightly colored tissue paper and pipe cleaners, you can make enough marigolds to adorn your home all year, or even craft flower crowns for the occasion.
Like marigolds, chrysanthemums are bright and cheery flowers that look fabulous in bunches. However, unlike marigolds, mums of every color of the rainbow aren’t present in Dia de los Muertos celebrations, or even in funeral decor. According to the Mexican Folk Art guide, white mums are used to celebrate the dead. If you want to put together a Dia de los Muertos bouquet in celebration of your loved ones, these mums will really pop against the yellows and oranges of the marigolds.
The gladiolus is a long, sword-like stalk that houses multiple blooms, and is a popular funeral flower in American bouquets. The flower symbolizes remembrance. These blooms are popular in Dia de los Muertos celebrations as well. The stalks are in bouquets alongside marigolds and mums, adorning ofrendas, or laid on the graves of loved ones who have passed. These flowers grow in a wide variety of colors, so they contribute to the vibrancy of the holiday.
Flowers are not only a beautiful addition to the Day of the Dead celebration, but also serve a purpose in the celebration of your loved ones lives.