By Jill Brooke
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 to them with a reunion that includes flowers, food, celebrations and storytelling.
This wonderful holiday, celebrated from October 31-November 2, is rooted in Mexican tradition has also spread through Catholic countries, and is popular in European and Spanish cultures.
The amazing Pamela Arnosky -who has been a marigold farmer in Blanco, Texas for decades – just started the Texas Marigold Festival which runs till October 30 and will include workshops on honoring loved, ones, making marigold bouquets, marigold dances etc.
“When you live in a small town, it’s easier to get things done since there’s not a lot of bureaucracy,” she says, noting how this holiday keeps on growing in popularity.
Even before the festival, thousands have come to her farm she runs with hubby Frank to get their marigold bouquets. Vibrant tangerine marigolds glisten alongside sunny yellow hues that collectively bring joy and merriment. These flowers are such perfect colors for the fall season. Plus, in the language of flowers, the marigold symbolizes both positive emotions and energy as well as joy. Not a surprise that it came close to becoming the official flower of the United States.
“We’ve been growing these flowers since 1992,” she says.
What’s even nicer, she employs the “honor” system and some people gather their marigolds and then leave their payment. Who says the world isn’t full of goodness too?
Like the Arnoskys, I am a big advocate of spreading the word on utilizing Day of the Dead traditions with your own family wherever you live.
In another chapter of my life, I wrote the book, “Don’t Let Death Ruin Your Life,” which explored how to keep memories alive of those no longer with us. There are many ways to remember how we are influenced by our loved ones whether it’s for a love of flowers, an interest in cooking, mannerisms and perhaps hobbies. The experience of talking to people around the world in this field of hospice, medicine and therapy left me with this conclusion.
People are not as afraid of dying as they are of being forgotten.
Which brings us back to this wonderful holiday. Think of ways your loved ones influenced you and share stories with your children so they then will follow your lead for the next generation. A friend is deceased? Gather pals who loved this person and tell stories about your friend. Too often when people die, we stop talking about them. Bring out trinkets or special items your loved one may have given you whether a piece of jewelry or clothing. Perhaps cook a recipe that your loved one enjoyed or taught you. Most importantly, use marigolds to connect you to this holiday. Take lessons from Pamela and. Frank Arnosky, along. with their four children, and maybe plant marigolds in honor of a loved one.
While October 31 is Halloween, November 1 is “el Did de los Inocentes,” or All Saints Day. According to tradition, the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of children can rejoin their families for 24 hours. The spirits of adults can do the same on November 2.
The Aztecs and others who lived in central Mexico believed that life was cyclical and saw death as an ever-present fact of life, not to be feared.
Upon dying, it was believed that the person traveling would appreciate friends and family to leave food or other offerings on their loved ones’ graves or create alters nearby or at home called “ofrendas” to remember them and aid them in their next journey. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. In fact, you can also have a bouquet of marigolds on the dining room table and just talk about loved ones and what you miss or admire about them. After all, flowers are great teachers for resilience and rebirth.
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and floral editor for aspire design and home magazine