If you want to know how to make paper marigold flowers to decorate your Day of the Dead ofrenda, you are in the right place. Today, I will show you three different ways to make them and share a little about the significance of this beautiful flower for the Día de los Muertos celebration.
What is the Cempasúchil Flower?
Mexican Marigolds, as they are known in the United States, are vibrant and aromatic plants native to Mexico and Central America. Their pungent fragrance not only adds to their ornamental appeal but also helps deter garden pests.
They come in a variety of colors and are a great companion for tomatoes in my experience.
This flower is beautiful in both color and name, the latter which comes from the Náhuatl language, cempoalxóchitl – cempoalli “twenty” and Xóchitl “flower,” so its meaning is “flower with twenty petals” or “twenty flowers.”
Its more popular name in Spanish is cempasúchil, but you can also find it as zempasúchil. For many years, when I was a child, it was also known as cempazúchitl. It’s correct either way. Choose your favorite.
Marigolds and the Day of the Dead Celebration
Beyond their medicinal and decorative uses, these pretty flowers hold cultural significance; they play a very important role during the Día de los Muertos celebration.
In pre-Hispanic times, the Mexica related the yellow color of this flower with the sun; for this reason, they used it on altars, ofrendas, and burial sites dedicated to their dead.
The belief is the marigolds, with their vibrant color and pungent aroma, guide the souls of the departed back home during the Day of the Dead on the first and second of November.
Families scatter marigold petals on their floors and use the entire flower to decorate the ofrenda, among other things.
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An Easy Craft
It’s tradition to use real cempasúchil flowers for this Mexican holiday, but if you can’t find them or don’t have them, making them out of paper is the easiest thing in the world.
This DIY project requires no template or hot glue gun, just a few materials, including:
- Paper – In my opinion, the best is crepe paper because it’s flexible, a little more resilient, and gives the flower a better shape. But if you can’t find it, you can also make beautiful marigolds out of tissue paper.
- Pipe cleaners – To hold all the pieces of paper together and to create the stem. You can also use wire or cord.
- Ruler, pencil, and scissors.
Tip: If you live close to a Dollar store there is an even easier way to make them with even fewer materials, I’ll tell you about that below.
Paper Flower Variations
You can create different looks. Here are some examples.
Different sizes: Cut larger or smaller squares to make the size you need. Smaller for the top of the ofrenda or to put in your hair; bigger for your house, school or larger displays.
Different colors: The traditional color is yellow or orange but you can make them in other colors such as purple, red, blue or green.
Multicolor: Combine papers in different orange or yellow tones in the same flower. You can also combine different colors in different types of papers to give a different texture. (Check out the video).
Using a pom pom garland: If you live near a Dollar store (like the Dollar Tree Store or 99 cent store), you can find packages with tissue paper sheets already cut and folded into strips. It is called a “pom pom garland.”
These pom pom garland flower petals are rounder. So to create the shape of the cempazúchitl flower, you just have to make the same cuts as we do with the crepe paper flowers described below.
Then, open them to create the flower. Look at the difference in these photos.
Let’s make them.
How to Make Marigold Paper Flowers for the Day of the Dead
Depending on the size, you can get about 8 flowers using a roll of crepe paper.
- I roll crepe paper or a few sheets of tissue paper in different colors. (orange and yellow are traditional).
- Pencil or pen
- Green wire, pipe cleaners, or cord
First, take the crepe paper roll. It comes folded in multiple layers. While it’s still folded, cut a 4-inch (8-10 cm) section, which results in having a handful of layers of paper sheets when you are done.
Note: You can make a bigger cut for bigger flowers.
Next, cut through the center of each folded end to create multiple flat sheets. Take six or seven layers of the 4 by 4-inch sheets and lay them on top of each other.
Make an accordion fold: make a 1/2 inch fold, then flip the entire group of sheets over and fold again, alternating until completely folded.
Take a piece of wire, pipe cleaner, or cord and twist it carefully around the center of the accordion.
Trim the edges of each side of the accordion strip to form rounded corners. Then, make two or three straight 1/4 inch lengthwise cuts from the edge towards the center on both sides.
Carefully separate each sheet from the other, being careful not to tear them, until the flower is formed.
That’s it! It’s that easy. Repeat as many times as you want.
Now you are ready to decorate your ofrenda with these beautiful marigold paper flowers, put them in your hair, or decorate your house.
I hope you have a beautiful Day of the Dead celebration.