The spirit plate is celebrated by many cultures in many different ways. The pagans of old would gather in the square to bring offerings for solstice and set out a plate with some of those foods for those who have crossed over in that year. Others do this as a daily ritual. In some european cultures it is custom to set out a spirit plate at weddings, christenings, and communions to welcome grandparents to the table so they have the opportunity to bless the event. In Mexico, on the day of the dead, those who have passed are commemorated with this, and the ancestor alter to remember their loved ones.
Here is an idea for you…
Setting the scene can be simple or elaborate. Set your table for dinner and place a candle in the center. once side is to be set for you and your family, the other for 2 or three people who have crossed over that you would like to sit with. place a candle in the window and on the eve of your dinner, before you gather everyone around the table invite those loved ones to join you. (if it is an animal, you can set out a dish for them too). Put on their plates some of the things they loved. My grandfather loved my moms shaved roast, cold tea in the afternoon while reading his newspaper, and white bread fresh from the bakery with Sunday lunch after church. Talk about them. you may even feel their presence if you are lucky they may make themselves known somehow.
After dinner, go to the candle at the window and thank your ancestors for the visit, and tell them you release them back to where they came from.
finally, take your spirit plates filled with their delights and place it somewhere where the wild ones can feast from it. The belief is that your loved ones will take the spirit of the food and dine on that, where the animals will take the physical offerings left behind.
This is one way to celebrate. Many cultures have many unique and interesting ways to commiserate with the past. The place where the dead lie need not be morbid and morose. If we make it so, we can live in harmony with the cycles of nature and appreciate this rite of passage as we would any other milestone in life knowing our loved ones are safe and filled with joy and light.