Day of the Dead: Why Are Marigolds Used to Celebrate Dia De Los Muertos?

November 2 marks Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. The Mexican tradition takes place annually as a happy celebration to honor loved ones who are no longer with us, rather than mourning their death.

Families marking the occasion will construct altars, better known as ofrendas, with offerings for the souls of friends and family.

These can be photos, candles, tequila, mezcal, food, sugar skulls and some of the deceased's favorite things so that they can visit their families and friends on this special occasion.

What exactly goes on each ofrenda will depend on each person and each family, but one thing you may notice a lot of is marigolds. This is why the flowers are so significant.

Why Are Marigolds Used To Celebrate Day of the Dead?

Native to Mexico, marigolds are annual flowers that have become popular worldwide.

They typically are available in shades of red, yellow, orange, mahogany or combinations of these colors adding to the sunny feeling of this festive celebration.

They are hardy plants and can tolerate heat, sun and drought making them easy to grow and care for so they are readily available for Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

Day of the Dead pre-dates the arrival of the Spanish in Latin America and has become a blend of Roman Catholic and pre-Aztec rituals.

The Aztec name for the flower is cempasúchil, and the flowers are believed to help guide lost souls.

Ofrendas are often decorated with them so that the souls of loved ones can find their way to their families over the celebration.

Marigolds are often also used to decorate the grave site to help these souls find their way back to their final resting place once the celebration is over.

It's believed that their pungent smell is what helps guide souls to the ofrendas.

They are also referred to as "Flor de Muerto" or "Flower of Dead" and symbolize the beauty and fragility of life.

Ofrendas are first decorated on October 31 as the souls of deceased children are believed to visit at midnight on November 1.

The souls of departed adults are said to arrive at midnight on November 2.

During the day of November 2, spirits of all the dead are celebrated in public.

In some cities, parades are common as people dress up with their faces painted like sugar skulls.

Many will also visit cemeteries to go to the grave site of their loved ones and clean it before decorating with marigolds, gifts and sugar skulls with the deceased's name on.

Mexican florist carries marigolds
A Mexican florist carries marigolds in preparation for Day of the Dead. Héctor Alfaro/Getty Images