Thursday is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Being raised Catholic, it is also All Soul's Day — the one you don't have to go to Mass for — as opposed to November 1st, All Saints Day — the one you do.
I had never really heard of it growing up, but have become exposed to it since moving to Southern California in 2001. I think it is a beautiful tradition — and I have come to like it more than the over-blown Halloween in this country. While the trappings might seem a little macabre, I think it is really a joyful day, albeit one that permits a little quiet reflection. To me, it is a time to reflect upon lost loved ones and recall them into the here and now. For families, I think it serves as a great mechanism to convey oral history as stories of the departed are related.
One of my favorite traditions is the laying out of extra place settings and ceramic versions of their favorite foods to entice the presence of the departed. I got to thinking of my folks and what I should lay out tomorrow.
My father's favorite meals were always big family dinners at the holidays — Thanksgiving and Christmas. So for Dad, I would lay out the Christmas ham with all the trimmings.
When my mom visited me here in San Diego, I was always tickled by how much she was willing to try new things even when in her 80s. So, for Mom, I'm choosing her latest (last?) favorite — I'm setting out a nice bowl of pho.