of Southern Florida
Ritual and Festive Traditions
Florida's diverse communities all set aside time from their work routines for spiritual observances and festive celebrations. These special occasions are typically marked by a variety of forms of artistic expression, including the making of objects. Ritual and festive objects may symbolize and facilitate contact with the divine, embody myths, intensify communal experience, or express religious and ethnic identities. Many types of material are used to make these items, from the wood of Russian Orthodox icons to the cloth and feathers of Haitian Vodou pakèts (charms). Generally, there are specialists in communities who are responsible for the production of ritual and festive objects. In some cases, these individuals possess specific spiritual knowledge as well as artistic skills.
Some objects are associated with rites of passage: rituals that symbolize transitions in life, such as birth, entry into adulthood, marriage and death. Among the objects of this type that are made in Florida are Nicaraguan piñatas for birthdays and first communions, dazzling dresses for Cuban quinceañeras (coming-of-age ceremonies for young women) and Jewish ketubot (decorated marriage contracts). Other objects are used for calendrical festivals or holidays. There are Ukrainian and Slovakian Easter eggs, Filipino parols (Christmas lanterns), Mexican altars for the Days of the Dead, Trinidadian costumes for Carnival (observed on Columbus Day weekend in Miami), and Bahamian Junkanoo costumes for the celebration of the Goombay Festival and Martin Luther King's birthday. Typically, new items are constructed each time a community observes a calendrical festival or rite of passage.