Dia de los Muertos festivals across the world use Marigolds as the centerpeice of elaborate ofrendas, or offerings to the dead. Marigolds are a significant symbol for the Day of the Dead festivity, and are known as the “flower of the dead.” They are used to construct an offering (ofrenda) to the spirits. Marigolds are part of the offering of gifts for the spirits and often petals from the flower are spread on the ground to guide the spirit to the house and tombs. Their scent is believed to “attract the souls and draw them back.”

Since pre-Hispanic times, the Marigold plant has had medicinal purposes and it is still used in many parts of the world today. It is thought to cure stomach ache, parasites, liver illnesses, vomiting, and toothache. All of these illnesses are said to be cured by a tea made from the flowers, eating the flowers, or wearing the flowers in a pouch around the neck.

Wow – all that AND did you know that Marigolds are also important in traditional weddings? Here is an easy way to create a stunning garland to use as a wedding lei or to drape your Day of the Dead alter. I can’t promise it will help with your stomach ache- but you never know!

You will need:

  • 40-60 Marigold Heads
  • White Dental Floss ( waxed)
  • Large upholstery needle or Lei needle

Measure and cut a length of waxed dental floss twice as long as you want your garland, plus 12 more inches (for example, for a 36 inch garland cut a piece of string 84 inches long). Thread one end through the needle and pull it through until both sides are of equal length. Tie the loose ends of the thread together in a very large knot three inches from the end.

Cut off the heads of the Marigolds at the base of the stems Insert the needle through the center of a Marigold from the stem end up through the middle of the blossom. Gently push the blossom down the thread until it is snug against the knot. Insert the needle through the center of the next Marigold from the blossom end down through the stem end; push it down the thread until it is snug against the previous flower, bloom-to-bloom. Continue in this way, threading flowers onto the garland blossom end first, until you have strung all the blooms. Make sure they are packed together snugly. Repeat until you have all flowers strung onto the thread. There should be 3 inches of thread left at the needle end of the garland. Tie the threads at the ends of the garland together firmly so that it forms a circle; double or triple-knot the threads. Clip off the needle and the loose ends of thread. Mist the flowers with water and keep in a cool, dark place until ready to wear.

Another common use for flower garlands and leis is in weddings. When Indian couples marry in a traditional wedding, they give one another long floral necklaces in a ceremony called Jaimala, also known as the exchange of the garlands. The Jaimala symbolizes the couple’s respect for each other and their promise to accept one another. Wedding garlands are made of vibrantly colored blooms (including Marigolds) strung tightly together for maximum visual impact and are a colorful, sweet-smelling part of the Indian wedding.