A Festival of Flowers: The Day of the Dead By Bryanna Sweeney
29 October 2020
A Festival of Flowers: The Day of the Dead
By Bryanna Sweeney
This Halloween, swap your sticky cobwebs, fake blood and plastic spiders for sugar skulls, tape, wire, and a mix of your favourite autumnal blooms. Instead of your sexy ghost costume, create some floral crowns and corsages inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. Also known as All Soul’s Day, the Day of the Dead is officially on November 2nd, however, the holiday runs from October 31st to November 2nd. Although it’s not strictly a flower festival, they are an indispensable part of the celebration.
The Irish are known for memorialising the dead, but Mexico commemorates ‘El Día de los Muertos’ with a three-day celebratory bash. Coinciding with Halloween, the two are often mistaken as the same holiday. Halloween or Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. In Mexico, it’s believed that the gates of heaven open from October 31st until November 2nd and the souls of the dead can return to their families for twenty-four hours. During this period, families tell stories about their loved ones and make altars and place photos, flowers, food and drink. November 1st is reserved for the return of the children.
The holiday is a blend of Mesoamerican and European cultures. Every year, cemeteries are awash in gold, lavender, tangerine, hot pink, scarlets and bottle green as families gather to clean and lay garlands and wreaths on the graves of their loved ones. Skulls, especially the edible sugar skulls, are a common motif and symbolise the sweetness of life. However, the celebration would not be complete without the presence of one little flower often seen in flower beds and window boxes: the humble marigold. Known as ‘the flower of the dead,’ their fragrance and bright colour guide the souls back home. On the streets, celebrants wear costumes and makeup to look like skeletons, some adorned in ornate floral crowns with bursting in marigolds, carnations, stock, gladiolus and coxcombs. This year, because of the you-know-what, Mexico City is asking people to celebrate at home. Cemeteries will be closed and only half as many marigolds are being grown.
I loved this time of year when I worked in the shop. We’d experiment on pumpkins with paint and glitter. We’d pack them with floral foam and give it a fabulous flowery hairdo. One client had a giant brandy glass, so we combined gourds, moss and Chinese lanterns and some of that sticky cobweb with a few spiders for that spine-tingling feeling. We made autumn wreaths from dried hydrangeas, apples and poppy heads and hung them from the wall as the scent of sweet musk drenched the air. Fall weddings are especially pleasing to create florals for because of the diversity and intensity of the season's hues.
Making floral crowns and corsages are fun and simple; all you need is a gentle hand and some wire, tape and flowers and maybe some wine. They're one of my favourite wearables to make and you'll feel like a Roman when you wear one. But if you’d like to be shown how to create a floral crown by a professional, follow us to find out about future classes. In the meantime, if you can’t get your hands on some cut marigolds, then carnations or roses can be used along with some filler to add more colour and texture. Larger flowers may be more awkward to work with and gerbera daisies can be used instead of marigold to recreate those little pom-poms of gold and tangerine.
When the celebrations pass, think about placing those flowers on the resting place of a loved one or making an altar at home in honour of someone who passed on beyond.