It’s the time of year for marigolds. In homes across India and its diaspora, garlands of the fiery orange-and-yellow flowers adorn doorways and holiday tables in honor of Diwali, the five-day festival of lights that takes place each fall.
And as November 1 approaches, bouquets of marigolds also begin to appear in homes throughout Mexico and Central America. Called the flor de muerto, these flowers figure prominently in traditional Day of the Dead celebrations each year—a cheerful flower that reminds observers of the brevity of life while they honor loved ones who have passed.
Native to the Americas, marigolds have played an important ceremonial role in Mexico since pre-Columbian times—beginning with the Nahua, who believed the blooms were a