As Halloween winds down, the Day of the Dead begins.
Flowers—especially wild marigolds and red cockscombs—figure prominently in the Day of the Dead. The Latin American celebration of life and the afterlife is a popular Mexican holiday rooted in Aztec culture. Observed on November 1 and 2 as, Dia de los Muertos coincides with All Soul’s and All Saint’s Day in the Catholic liturgical calendar.
The Day of the Dead begins at midnight on October 31, the end of Halloween, when the gates of heaven open so the spirits of deceased children, known as angelitos, can reunite with the living members of their families. On November 2, adult spirits visit.
To welcome the spirits, the living go to great lengths preparing altars with flowers, candles, and food.
Whether fresh or paper flowers decorating altars and tombstones, or blossoms painted in the eye sockets of skull art, or frosting flowers adorning sugar skulls, blooms add color and life to Day of the Dead festivities.
And certain flowers are especially important in the cultural rituals.
Wild marigolds also called cempasuchil, white mums, red cockscomb, gladiolus, and baby’s breath are some of the traditional blooms used to decorate altars or graves. Many of these flowers have strong scents. Tradition holds that the fragrance of flowers welcomes returning souls.
The flowers also are typically in bloom during autumn when the holiday falls. As the garden wanes from a time of life and harvest to the fruitless cold of winter, the Day of the Dead reminds us we all shall pass from this life. The Day of the Dead provides us with a holiday giving us pause, but as we consider mortality, perhaps we gain a renewed value for life.
••• “Cultivate your corner of the world.
You grow your garden; your garden grows you.” •••
• Colleen Smith’s gift book “Laid-Back Skier” makes a charming gift! This whimsical, inspirational book includes original color illustrations of ski bunnies and encouragement for life’s ups and downs. Watch “Laid-Back Skier’s” brief YouTube video here.
• Colleen Smith’s first novel, “Glass Halo”—a finalist for the 2010 Santa Fe Literary Prize — is available in hardcover or e—book.
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