Today is the start of the Day of the Dead festival when Mexican families pay their respects to the deceased. It goes back to Aztec times, when it was celebrated in the summer, but following the Spanish conquest was moved to All Hallow's Eve and All Saints' Day.
Many families go to the cemetery and also set up simple - or sometimes very elaborate - altars in their homes on which are placed photos, food (particularly sugar-coated buns - pan de muerto) candles, crosses, marigolds and skulls. There are all sorts of variations around the world: Qingming (Tomb Sweeping Day) in China and if course in the US it's manifested as Hallowe'en, though more trick-or-treat than respecting your ancestors.
It's the skulls & skeletons that make Day of the Dead such a macabre event and so recognisable around the world. In truth they're more comic than scary. And they're everywhere, including at the Hallowe'en party we went to this evening, which was more American than Mexican.
Brits are curiously uncomfortable in dealing with, let alone celebrating, death, and we simply don't 'do' ancestor workshop. But we've decided to buck that trend. Here's our attempt at an altar. Not sure if the black cat really fits, but we like it.