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A look at why the marigold, or cempasúchil, is the traditional flower of the dead

Posted at 5:29 AM, Nov 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-02 09:30:53-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — “At the time of the Aztecs, where this tradition comes from, that was the flower that would flower around the season for Dia de los Muertos," said Martha Elias, a Mexico native.

While Dia de los Muertos is a holiday wrapped up in death, it's actually celebratory in nature. The marigold flower, with its cheerful hues and fragrance, is said to lead souls from their burial place to their family homes.

“The marigolds, or like we call them in Spanish the cempasúchil, are one of the main elements of the altar because it’s our way to show our loved ones who have passed away the way to our homes," Elias said.

Cempasúchil is Aztec and roughly translates to flower of many petals. In Aztec lore, the flower was a sacred representation of the sun and was believed to have healing and even magic properties.

In Mexican tradition, the flower now represents a bridge home for spirits and can be found alongside the many ofrendas atop altars.

While the dead return to in spirit on this day those here at home can look at the cheerful flowers, the photos lining altars, and honor the little things that made someone special.

“He also loved birds and he always wanted cardinals. That was his favorite. He got to see them only once in his life and his great desire was to see them again and as far as I know, he never got to see them.”

Spanish settlers cultivated the flower and took seeds back with them to Europe. Now the flower of the dead, with its many petals, is a popular addition to any garden. But its roots will always stay in the tradition of Day of the Dead.

“There cannot be an altar for Dia de los Muertos without the cempasúchil flowers.”

On Tuesday, Historic Union Cemetery will hold a Dia De Los Muertos celebration. The event is going on between 3 to 8 p.m.