Happy Day of Dead/Dia de los Muertos!
Day of the Dead, which celebrated on November 1st and 2nd in many Latin American cultures, is a holiday that honours and commemorates the lives of deceased loved ones. Typically, November 1st is dedicated to children that have passed on, while November 2nd is for deceased adults.
Dia de los Muertos is the biggest and most important holiday in Mexico. Though some cultures may take a more somber approach in honouring the deceased, Day of the Dead is a festive and joyous occasion. Friends and family come together to celebrate with the dead and have a good time, as they believe the souls of the dead will return to visit the living.
Along with dinners and parties, creating a shrine or altar is one of the most important ways to celebrate Day of the Dead. Traditionally, families will build altars in their homes during the weeks leading up to November 1st. Today, altars and shrines can be found in public places like classrooms, museums and libraries.
But what does all of this have to do with flowers (since Fun Flower Facts is a flower blog)?
Well, the marigold, that distinctive yellow/orange flower with the pungent scent, is an significant symbol of Day of the Dead. In Mexico, the marigold symbolizes the brevity of life. That being said, this isn’t something unique. The marigold has long been known as the flower of death; it has been used for centuries in rituals and funerals.
To celebrate Day of the Dead, shrines and graves are decorated with marigolds. Mexican marigold (tagetes erecta) is the traditional flower used in Mexico and other Latin American countries; it is also known as the Flor de Muerto. These flowers grow abundantly this time of the year. Marigolds are thought to attract the souls and guide them back to earth with their scent and bright colours. In some villages, people leaves a trail of marigolds from their home to their loved one’s grave, so that the deceased can easily find their way back home.
Here is a guide on how to build your own Day of the Dead shrine/altar for your loved one:
- Decide where you want the altar to go.
- Build the altar base. You can start with a nook in the wall, table, desk, stacks of crates, or bookshelf, to give you some ideas. To make multiple tiers, use boxes of various sizes to create height. Cover the space with a nice, clean tablecloth or bed sheet.
- Decorate the altar with items and trinkets that honour your deceased one. Choose things that have meaning and reflect the character/personality of the deceased, i.e photographs, favourite books/movies, and other collectibles.
- Include some their favourite foods, candies and drinks.
- And most important, don’t forget the marigold flowers! Fresh or artificial flowers can be placed in vases or scattered throughout the shrine. They can be fashioned into garlands, wreaths and crosses.
And last but not least, remember there is no right or wrong way to do this. Have fun with it!