My dad grew up as a middle class Irish Italian kid with the quintessentially Irish name "Stephen Michael Maloney." Only that wasn't the original surname on my father's birth certificate. He was born "Stephen Michael Menéndez." That's a hell of a heritage swing.
Celebrating death, especially with food, seemed so strange to me as South American Latino. When I asked about this to my Mexican friends they said that it was a way to celebrate the life that the dead person had had in this world.