The Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos takes place on November 1st and 2nd. Known as All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, Día de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience. It is seen as a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Día de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones. In Mexico where it is celebrated, the dead are still considered members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit. During Día de los Muertos, they temporarily return to Earth. During these days of remembrance, people visit cemeteries, pray, and bless the graves of their dearly departed.
The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar, or ofrenda (offering) built in private homes and cemeteries. The altars have three levels which represent heaven, earth, and the underworld. Among many different items of significance, such as photos and possessions of the dead placed upon it, the tradition of including Marigold flowers is called the cempasuchil. The name is derived from Aztec origins and roughly translates to the “flower of many petals.” Considered the “flowers of the dead” (flor de muerto), it’s believed that the scent of these bright orange blooms helps attract souls to the altar and its offerings. This flower, used since ancient times for its medicinal properties, brings a unique color to the shrine that makes the spirits feel joyful and peaceful.
In addition to Marigolds, several other flowers are commonly included in the beautiful bouquets during Día de los Muertos:
- White cloud-like clusters of Baby’s Breath lend an ethereal aura.
- Cockscomb is a beautiful and bright red color, enhancing the warm tones of the Marigolds.
- White Chrysanthemums symbolize peace, beauty and sympathy.
- White Hoary Stock is used for someone who wants to remember a child who has passed on. White also recalls innocence, which is why you’ll typically see it on the altars memorializing those who died too young.
- Gladiolus represent remembrance and faithfulness and are used to honor the life of someone you loved.
- Papel picado, or traditional paper banners, represent the wind. The tissue paper is also made into flowers. The delicate nature of paper represents life.
To join in the celebration today, and to honor those in your life who have departed, treat yourself to a fall bouquet and enjoy collecting or crafting the flowers that represent the sentiments that best express “bienvenidos a casa!” to welcome home those who have passed on.
Lori Bradford Miles is a published author, creative writer, and White Witch who believes in the magic of alchemy! Explore spiritual teachings and experiences with her via Alchemy of a White Witch, her series of publications that organically metamorphosed into creative writings. Based in Kingston Springs, TN, you can find her on IG @alchemywhitewitchmagic.