It is a tradition in our family to celebrate Día de los Muertos… We call it NFT (nomenclature by our vintage for a Mexican altar, and/or El Niño De Los Muertos, or the dead child). It has become such a daily topic of conversation among friends and family members that we have started doing a public TV show about it… and sharing recipes that give us the traditional recipes.
NFTs started in Mexico around the 1970s, slowly spreading to the U.S. … something some families do every year; something others do every few months. Typically, it is done with an inexpensive string tie around a plant, like a branch in fall … where the NFT flower is often tied to a branch. Once it is pulled, the NFT leaf is pulled up, and the symbolism of the NFT changes.
One Thanksgiving, at my house, we had quite the growth of pine needles in the cupboard next to the shopping cart, so my mother improvised a succulent succulent that smelled like, well, pine — and put it on the NFT. Well … the succulent grew out of the plant and fell on top of the succulent! My mother thought it was pretty clever.
In the Northeast, my family friends took turns decorating their altar to honoring a loved one, the Mexican family members, or a pet … or, they have them all. It’s interesting how when you decorate an altar … you’re never sure what to put on it. The mystery of it all is always, again, great fun.