I got a bunch of marigolds from a friend (Thank you, Uma!) and started talking to everyone around me about these flowers.
I learned about their prevalence in the Diwali celebration and symbolism in various ceremonies and cultures. The saffron color is significant and has its connotation in the flag of India but the flower itself symbolizes brightness and positive energy. It is used in weddings and all forts of celebrations in India.
I knew these flowers as chornobryvtsi / Чорнобривці (Ukrainian) or бархатцы (Russian) and these hardy flowers were part of every flower bed during summer in my childhood as they require minimum maintenance and are usually self-seeding. They were part of folklore, traditional art, and songs and are considered one of the symbols of Ukraine.
And then more friends joined me in talking about marigolds as a part of The Day of the Dead Celebration. I learned that these flowers are native to the Americas, growing naturally from the southwestern United States into South America. The Aztecs called it campasúchil, the flower of 400 lives and they were also sacred to Mayan cultures often used to honor gods and spirits.
Marigolds were introduced to other parts of the world in the 16th century. The genus was described by Carl Linnaeus as Tagetes in 1753. The Latin name is derived from the Etruscan god named Tages who was born from the plowing of the earth (my guess is the shape of the petals are responsible for that). And the most commonly cultivated varieties of Tagetes are known as African marigolds or French marigolds.
And that is how one little unapologetically orange flower united many cultures and time periods together for me!