What flowers are used for Dia de los Muertos?
Fall season is already here and, if you are wondering what flowers are used for Día de los Muertos, the most famous Mexican tradition around the world, today we bring you the answer! Keep reading and discover what are the most known Día de los Muertos traditions and which are the most popular flowers for Día de los Muertos.
What is Dia de los Muertos meaning?
Let's start at the beginning, do you know what day is Dia de los Muertos? Every year this festival is celebrated between November 1 and 2, although preparations begin during the month of October. Its origin dates back more than 500 years, when different traditions of pre-Hispanic cultures merged with Catholic ones. Día de los Muertos meaning has to do with the return of the deceased to Earth to be with mortals again. Of course, for a limited time, only during these days. In fact, November 1 is dedicated to the “little dead”, that is, to deceased children, and, November 2, to the “faithful deceased”, that is, to deceased adults.
Day of the Dead tradition says that when a person dies naturally, they have to travel through Mictlan, a tortuous wasteland run by the lords of death, Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacíhuatl. To make their journey easier, the deceased were buried with the xoloitzcuintle dog, who guided them along the way and helped them cross the river to reach Mictlantecuhtli. Then, they had to make offerings to the lord of death so that he would let them pass to the so-called Chicunamictlán, the place where their souls could finally rest eternally.
What are Dia de los Muertos traditions?
From end to end of Mexico, from Mexico City to Cancun, the country is filled with altars that each family places to honor their dead and make offerings to them. They are usually found in every house, also on tombs in cemeteries, and are decorated with the most popular Day of the Dead flowers, the cempasúchil. Its orange petals are the most recognizable symbol of this Mexican holiday.
Dia de los Muertos decorations for altars include images of the deceased and saints, candles, incense and handmade objects of sentimental value. In addition, you can't miss the favorite foods of the deceased, traditional dishes such as tamales, tortillas, guajolote, molenegro, hot chocolate and, of course, pan de muerto, decorated with motifs of crossed bones and sugar.
Orange flowers for Dia de los Muertos
You may wonder why the color orange is the most representative of this celebration. Mexican ancestors associated orange with the sun and light. For this reason it is traditional to mark paths with flower petals that guide the deceased from where they are buried to the altars with the offerings.
This is why orange flowers for Dia de los Muertos are the most commonly used, but there are other popular colors, like red and yellow.
Marigold flowers Día de los muertos (caléndula)Cempasúchil
The queen of Día de los Muertos flowers is, without a doubt, the marigold, called cempasúchil. The name of this flower native to Mexico comes from the indigenous Nahuatl language and its translation would be “twenty flowers” or “several flowers.” This is due to the shape of its corolla, which is reminiscent of a pompom created by many flowers together.
Using Marigold flowers for Día de los Muertos is also an ancient custom. The indigenous settlers of Mexico before the conquest believed that the musky aroma of marigolds, as well as their striking colors, attracted souls. For this reason, they are one of the Dia de los Muertos flowers and are placed on altars to lead the deceased back home during this celebration.
At the end of October and beginning of November, all of Mexico is impregnated with the particular aroma of marigold flowers which, in addition to being used as Day of the Dead decorations, are also appreciated for their medicinal properties and as a colorant.
Did you know that carnation means “flower of God”? It is estimated that there are approximately 250 different species of carnations in the world and they are grown throughout the year. Although they come in many colors, orange and yellow carnations are the protagonists on altars and tombs. During the Day of the Dead traditions and festivities, carnations symbolize the bond of unity between the deceased and their family and friends.
Originally from Spain, this is a flower widely used worldwide when making wreaths and funeral floral arrangements. Its name means “golden flower” and on the Day of the Dead it is especially used to decorate pantheons in cemeteries, as it symbolizes eternity.
Another of the flowers for Día de los Muertos is the velvet cockscomb, which receives this name because of the softness of its petals. Although the origin of these flowers is Asian, they are also grown in the central and southern areas of Mexico. They are highly appreciated for decorating tombs and altars due to their great beauty and it is also said that they provide comfort to family members in the face of the loss of a loved one.
Now that you know what flowers are used for Día de los Muertos, why not celebrate this Mexican tradition? If you are away from family and friends this holiday, keep up the tradition by sending flowers to Mexico to honor the deceased and feel closer to your loved ones.