Unlike Halloween, which focuses on scary witches and ghouls, the Day of the Dead puts the spotlight on loved ones who have died. To embrace that love and celebrate their memory, the marigold is often the focal flower with its explosion of tangerine, canary yellow, and life-affirming celebratory power.
Why is the marigold so associated with the Day of the Dead? Over 3,000 years ago, the Aztecs loved the marigold and celebrated the tradition of putting flowers on the graves of loved ones to reconnect with them. This reunion included flowers as well as food, personal mementos, and storytelling.
Day of the Dead festivities has spread all around the world – including the U.S., where there is a festival in Blanco, Texas. Not a surprise really when you consider that the marigold almost became the U.S. state flower.
Championed by Senate minority leader Everett McKinley Dirksen, Republican of Illinois, in 1967, he argued that ”the marigold is a native of America is national in character, for it grows and thrives in every one of the 50 states of this nation. Its robustness reflects the hardihood and character of the generations who pioneered and built this land into a great nation,” he wrote. The rose may have won the honor, but the marigold is still beloved, especially during the autumnal months.
Of course, the flower also is a pivotal symbol for Diwali, a five-day religious celebration that symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.” Celebrated by members of Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and some Buddhist communities, people, decorate every corner of their homes with lights, lamps filled with an oil called diyas, flowers, and candles. They also create rangoli, consisting of elaborate designs made of colored rice, sand, or flower petals.
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