Paper Flowers for Dia de los Muertos


Every year Stockton’s Haggin Museum displays a community ofrenda to celebrate Día de los Muertos. A few days ago, I took Alice to see this year’s installation, created by Modesto-based artist Paco Garcia.


She was impressed, and after our visit, I thought we’d try to make our own paper marigolds in honor of the holiday.

Marigolds—or cempasúchil, from Nahuatl roots—have had cultural significance in Mexico since pre-Columbian times, and traditionally adorn Día de los Muertos altars. I’ve read that the flower’s scent helps guide home the spirits of dead loved ones, and also that the blooms serve to remind us of life’s fragility.

Both interpretations, I think, are beautiful.

To make paper cempasúchil, you need:

  • Orange and yellow crepe or tissue paper, cut into squares (mine were 5 inches across)
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaners, twist ties, wire or yarn

Dia de Los Muertos flowers

Step 1: Take four to six crepe or tissue squares and stack them neatly. Then, with all layers held together, fold accordion-style (as though you’re making a paper fan).

Step 2: With the paper folded, wrap a pipe cleaner around the middle and twist.

Step 3: Cut each end of the folded paper into a rounded point, then fan out either side so the paper looks like a bow tie.

Step 4: One by one, very carefully lift each layer of paper up toward the center.íí

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