Celebrations for Día de los Muertos, or the “Day of the Dead,” were restrained over the past 2 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic — as was the case for most holidays.
This year, however, is shaping up to be a different story altogether.
Day of the Dead begins at midnight on November 1 and ends after November 2. As it approaches, Mexican flower growers have already begun to sell a high number of marigolds, which are used in the celebrations. That’s because the flowers, known as cempasúchil, have a strong fragrance believed to lead souls from their burial place back to their family home.
Indeed, an increase in fertilizer prices has correspondingly led to increased prices for the flowers. Still, families are buying marigolds as quickly as workers can transport them from the flower-producing district of Xochimilco in Mexico City to markets, according to Reuters.
“We have always planted marigolds from the time of our ancestors,” local flower grower Cristobal Garcia said. “It is said that the color and the aroma make our dead visit us.”
What Is Día De Los Muertos?
First things first, Day of the Dead is not simply how Halloween is celebrated in Mexico. Instead, it is a completely different holiday. Plus, unlike Halloween with its haunting celebrations, Day of the Dead is a happy holiday that celebrates loved ones who have died.
Although Day of the Dead pre-dates the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico and has its origins in Aztec rituals, it has changed over the years. Today, Day of the Dead blends tributes to Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl — or the “Lady of the Dead” who allowed spirits to visit their loved ones — and the Spaniards’ observance of the Roman Catholic All Saints Day celebration, according to NPR.
Day of the Dead begins at midnight on November 1 when the souls of deceased children are believed to visit families, followed by the souls of deceased adults who are believed to arrive at midnight on November 2. Then, during the day on November 2, the spirits of all the dead are celebrated.
Many cities even have Day of the Dead parades where participants dress in costumes with their faces painted as festive skulls.
Why Marigolds Are Important
Families celebrate Day of the Dead by building brightly colored ofrendas, or “altars,” with offerings for their departed loved ones. These offerings typically include photos of the dead, candles, tequila and mezcal, food, and even smiling sugar skulls made from sugar or clay.
Marigolds, which are native to Mexico, are used to decorate ofrendas for two reasons. First, their strong smell is believed to help guide souls back to their family homes. The second reason is that they are brightly colored. Marigolds’ bright orange and yellow colors add festive decorations to the ofrendas.