Posts tagged ‘Smithsonian Gardens’

Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with SG!

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, I will be doing a two part series. This week I will be discussing the plants growing in our gardens in preparation for the Day of the Dead celebrations. For the second part, I will be discussing Hispanic Heritage related artifacts in our Archives of American Gardens.

In preperation for the Smithsonian’s Day of the Dead celebration we are currently growing ‘Hopi Red Dye’ Amaranth and Orange Marigolds in the gardens around the National Museum of the American Indian and in our greenhouses.

Marigolds

Marigolds in the Three Sisters garden at the National Museum of the American Indian.

The Aztecs, Mayans, and Toltecs commemorated the deceased at fixed times during the year. The Indigenous peoples believed that during these months of the year the deceased could return. To encourage the deceased to return, they offered flowers, food, incense, dancing, and music.

Day of the Dead or “Dia De Los Muertos” is a holiday celebrated in many Latin American countries and in areas of the United States with high populations of Hispanic Americans, including California, Texas, and New Mexico. The festival is celebrated on November 2nd. The culture of the Day of the Dead reinforces the idea that death is not scary or sad but a natural part of life.

Archway Covered in Marigolds, From Wikicommons

Archway Covered in Marigolds, From Wikicommons

During the celebrations, families clean and decorate graves with orange Mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) or in Spanish, cempasuchil. In Mexico, marigolds are also called Flor de Muerto or Flower of the Dead. Because of their strong scent and vibrant color, they are thought to attract the souls of the dead to the offerings the living have made. The petals of marigolds are also used to lay a pathway for the dead. Other common icons used in the Day of the Dead celebrations are skulls and candles.

‘Hopi Red Dye’ Amaranth are usually tall plants with broad green leaves and bright purple, red, or gold flowers. Amaranth was a major food source for the Aztecs and was domesticated between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago. Along with being a major crop, amaranth was used in Aztec religious ceremonies in the creation of icons. These icons were formed out of amaranth grains and honey. After being worshiped these images were broken into pieces and eaten. Today, popped amaranth is sold on the streets in many South American countries. During Day of the Dead celebrations, the Aztec tradition is continued through the molding and eating of amaranth seed skulls.

Amaranth Seed Skulls

Amaranth Seed Skulls, From Wikicommons

In the United States, Day of the Dead celebrations are becoming increasingly common. While the use of skulls, marigolds, and candles is still routine, the altars are sometimes included museum exhibits to make a statement about life in America for Latino Americans. Latino Americans are mixing the traditional with the contemporary in the continuation of this tradition and the preservation of their heritage.

Learn more about the Day of the Dead from the Smithsonian Latino Center: http://latino.si.edu/dayofthedead/.

The National Museum of the American Indian in collaration with the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Latino Center will be hosting their annual Dia de los Muertos: Day of the Dead on Sunday, October 27, 2013 and Saturday, October 28, 2013 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The program will include the exhibition of the ofrendas, food demonstrations, music, dance performances, and special film screenings.

-Mattea Sanders, Fall 2013 Horticulture Collections and Education Intern

September 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment


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