Thursday, November 2, 2017

Monarchs and marigolds






I bought this small potted marigold plant yesterday when I shopped for groceries. Trader Joe's has them on the floral display right now. They were so cheap, and so sunny, that I had to have one. They're special too - they are meant to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, a holiday observed in Mexico on November 1 and 2, at just the same time as All Soul's Day, and for similar reasons. I put my little pot of marigolds on the kitchen table, where they sit in the sunshine most of the morning looking bright and cheerful.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is an ancient traditional holiday when people pay their respects to loved ones who have passed away. They do this by visiting graves and leaving special mementos, including marigold flowers, which are called cempacuchil in Mexico. Marigolds are an important symbol of Dia de los Muertos, and they adorn graves and ofrendas, or altars, as below, which are built to commemorate the dead.

Photo from Mexconnect.com

I don't really celebrate Dia de los Muertos (aside from wearing my dangly faux-turquoise skull-and-flowers earrings), but the ideas and imagery behind it fascinate me, as you may have noticed if you've been reading my blog for a while. I've previously shared posts related to this holiday, including one about an Etsy treasury I'd made, featuring Dia de los Muertos-inspired art, crafts, jewelry and textiles that I'd found and loved. Another time, I shared some sugar skull-inspired cookies I'd baked with the small Bears during my Martha and Me challenge in 2015.

Photo from freytagsflorist.com


Photo from mexicansugarskull.com

Here in New Mexico, where we have strong ties to Latin American culture, we have numerous public celebrations, including a Marigold Parade locally. Some people build small altars too, including the traditional marigolds as well as different kinds of food offerings - fruits, vegetables, decorated sugar skulls, pan de muerto (bread shaped like bones) - and candles. Some will also paint their faces as skulls, with flowers in their hair, for the parade.

Another lovely part of this holiday involves monarch butterflies. This happens to be the time of year when monarchs migrate across central Mexico, where monarchs are considered a symbol of the soul. Sometimes people drill holes in a loved one's coffin to let the soul escape in the form of a butterfly. The monarchs' migration is seen as a return of the spirits of deceased ancestors and loved ones. I really, really love that - golden, glowing flowers and fluttering, painted-glass butterflies to welcome our beloved friends and family home again.

Honoring the dead makes a lot of sense to me. Death is an unavoidable part of life, but it helps - and heals - when we focus on the good, happy things we remember about our lost loved ones. I appreciate the way life, death and the natural world are tied together in one celebration.

You might enjoy watching this short film called "Here Come the Dead," about traditional Dia de los Muertos observances in Michoacan, Mexico.

14 comments:

  1. I guess it is not so much celebrating the death but the life if those departed from our lives. I think it is a nice tradition. I'd love to see a marigold parade. Imagine all the colour, just amazing! Thanks for this lovely post Jennifer, I enjoyed reading about the Day of the Dead. xx

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  2. I love hearing about other cultures' special days, it's fascinating. The children learned a little about Dia de los Muertos at school, we were talking about it just the other day. Lovely to hear the butterfly connection as well, monarchs are such amazing creatures. Have you read Flight Behaviour? I really enjoyed hearing about them in that, and it's a great read if you haven't. CJ xx

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  3. Marigolds are such bright and happy flowers, it's lovely that this type of flower has been adopted as the symbol of Dia de los Muertos. I remember your earlier posts about this tradition and I've learnt from them as I knew nothing of it before then.

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  4. I always learn so much in your posts Jennifer. I didn’t know any of this. I do love marigolds and butterflies and find it interesting that they are such a big part of this holiday. Thank you for all of the information you shared.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  5. Thank you for this. The film was really interesting and informative, I love the idea of the butterflies representing the souls of loved ones. Its good to remember the happier times rather than dwelling on the loss. Its also very apt for me right now as I recently lost my Dad, and your post is yet another strange coincidence (one of many things I've seen or heard or read) I've experienced since his death where I've come across comforting messages that help me cope with grief. Thank you. I also wanted to say I've been a follower of your blog for quite some time and I find your words and pictures and thoughts a wonderful tonic to the usual frenetic pace of the internet. Its so nice to read about normal life rather than 'photoshop' life if that makes sense! Best wishes to you and yours.

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  6. I didn't know that about marigolds being a part of Dîa del Muerte. Such pretty pictures.

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  7. I loved this post and it reminded me of the two years we spend living in Mexico. My kids were asked to bring photographs of loved deceased people and an altar was built at school, with marigold flowers, orange flavoured sugar bread, sugar skulls and other food and drink items. The multi tiered altar was then decorated with the photographs.

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  8. Monarch butterflies have always fascinated me. I never knew they were a symbol for the soul. The children made sugar skulls this year and we learned a little more about the Dîa del Muerte traditions. Those marigolds are beautiful. Sadly, it's too cold for them where we live.

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  9. Thank you for such an interesting post today. I lived in San Diego for 35 years where Dia de los Muertos is widely celebrated and I never knew about the marigolds or butterflies. I'll have to check out my local TJ's and see if they have any more marigolds here in San Luis Obispo.

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  10. Fascinating reading Jennifer. They certainly brighten up your window and your day. Jo x

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  11. Interesting! Monarchs and marigolds...I knew nothing of how these are linked to the holiday. Thanks for posting, Jennifer. Happy Weekend :) xx

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  12. Interesting post Jennifer, I love marigolds the colours are so warm and give a happy glow, have a great weekend. :) x

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  13. I don't know much about Day of the Dead - I'll have to watch that video. I had no idea about the marigolds being an important symbol for Day of the Dead.

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  14. The marigold-filled decorations are amazing, so full of light and warmth at a dark time of year. I bought some cool Day of the Dead skull cookie cutters a few weeks ago with the intention of baking and decorating some cookies, but it never happened. Maybe next year. x

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