Bahia is a party all over the year. There’s a succession of festivals, concentrated in the summer, but extended for the whole year, including St. John’s Festival. The folkloric displays, of different origins, proliferate in outdoors exhibitions of capoeira, maculelê and samba-de-roda. Thousands of people go to the streets to celebrate the patron saints. Besides being popular, these festivals are characterized by the religious syncretism and the blending of sacred and profane elements.
All the faith of Bahia’s people is displayed during the cycle of festivals, from the celebrations of Candomblé’s Orixás, when all the terreiros in the city play their drums to make their believers dance, to the festivals of the Catholics, which receive a profane touch with samba-de-roda and the stands that serve a variety of drinks and food.
This festive atmosphere impregnates the entire city, from morning to night, but in the beginning of December the program is intensified. The cycle begins on December 4th, with Saint Barbara’s Festival and has its climax on Bonfim’s Festival, Iemanjá’s Festival and Carnival. Nowadays the most traditional ones are: Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, Bonfim’s Festival and Iemanjá. See below the festive calendar:
Santa Bárbara – December 4th
Conceição da Praia – December 8th
Bom Jesus dos Navegantes – January 1st
Bonfim’s Festival (changeable date) – 2nd Thursday of January
Ribeira’s Festival (changeable date) – the first Monday after Bonfim’s festival
Iemanjá’s Festival – February 2nd
Itapuã’s Festival (changeable date) – one week after Carnival
Considered the second biggest popular manifestation and the main religious event in Bahia, Bonfim’s Festival takes place on the second Thursday after Epiphany,...
When: 1st to the 2nd of December Where: Salvador On the 2nd of December we celebrate the National Day of the Samba. The festival was iniciated by the Chamber of...
A tradition of the city of Salvador, Iemanjá’s festival gathers believers to honor the Queen of Waters. The festival starts at 5:00am, with fireworks,...
The most traditional of the religious festivals in Brazil, the festival in honor of Our Lady of Conceição da Praia dates back to 1550. The saint,...
Santa Barbara is one of the most highly revered divinities in Bahia. Every 4th of December thousands of Bahians attend mass and make carurus (a typical Bahian dish,...
Traditional popular celebration, this festival has a Portuguese origin, dating back from 1750. It includes two maritime corteges: the first one, on December 31st,...
Bom Jesus dos Navegantes Festival
Traditional popular celebration, this festival has a Portuguese origin, dating back from 1750. It includes two maritime corteges: the first one, on December 31st, goes from Largo da Boa Viagem to Conceição da Praia Church; the second one, on January 1st – one of the most popular of the city – with hundreds of vessels accompanying the Galeota Gratidão do Povo, which conducts the image of Our Lord of the Navigators along the waters of All Saints’ Bay, from the pier of the Second Naval District to Boa Viagem beach.
The event is preceded by a triduo, solemn mass and street festival, which becomes a real popular “New Year’s Eve” party in the evening of December 31st. The festival, however, starts to be prepared on December 27th. The maritime cortege, which involves sacred characters and places, refers to the Liturgical Dramas, initiated in the Middle Ages.
Changeable date: 2nd Thursday of January
In the sequence of festivals, the highlight is Bonfim’s Festival, a kilometer long cortege, with everybody dressed in white, between Conceição da Praia Church and Bonfim Church, on top of the Sacred Hill. Every year, around 800 thousand people participate in the cortege. The baianas, who open the cortege, pour the water with perfume from their vases on the church’s forecourt and on believers’ heads, in a ritual of faith and hope.
Conceição da Praia
The most traditional of the religious festivals in Brazil, the festival in honor of Our Lady of Conceição da Praia happens since 1550. The saint, patron saint of Salvador, Bahia and some other cities, receives the homage of thousands of believers every year on December 8th. The ritual of the festivities follows the tradition of the novena (series of prayers lasting nine days) through the streets of Comércio District. During the obligatory passing by Corpo Santo Church, the image of Saint Joseph gets together with the images of Our Lady of Conceição da Praia and Baby Jesus.
The first chapel in honor of Our Lady of Conceição da Praia was erected in Salvador, ordered by the governor Tomé de Souza. According to some accounts, the governor himself helped in the construction work. Some years later it was demolished to give place to the current church, built in 1739 by the Albuquerque Cavalcanti family. The chapel was listed by IPHAN (Institute of the National Historical and Artistic Heritage) in 1938.
Iemanjá’s Festival – Salvador and Itaparica 2/2
One of the most beautiful and traditional celebrations of Salvador, Iemanjá’s Festival also gathers believers to honor the Queen of Waters in Itaparica. During the day, the religious festivities, with wishes and offerings to Iemanjá, blend with the profane, with stands in the squares, selling a variety of food and drinks, with lots of music.
The sovereign of the seas is saluted on February 2nd with the usual maritime cortege, leaving from Terreiro Omon Ilê Aboulá – known as Candomblé of Babá or dos Eguns -, at Alto da Bela Vista, in a cortege headed by the priestesses, and followed by local people, tourists and fishermen. That’s the day when the wishes and offerings are made in Santana Square, in Rio Vermelho.
Vessels from other localities in All Saints’ Bay also participate in the cortege. In Itaparica, fireworks announce the departure of the baskets at 5:00pm, which go to Amoreiras, at the south edge of Ponta de Areia Beach. After the cortege in honor of Iemanjá, the central square of Amoreiras is the stage of a big party, with lots of music, dance and folkloric presentations.
The tradition of Itapuã’s Festival, in honor of Our Lady of the Conception and Iemanjá, started because of a woman who lived in the district, known as Dona Niçu. The inclusion of this festival in the festivities’ calendar was an old dream of Dona Niçu, which has been maintained by her children after she passed away. Every year, the festival gathers fishermen, baianas, bikers, capoeira players and horsemen in a blend of sacred and profane. At two o’clock in the morning people who live in the district are waken by the sound of guitars and banjos. At five o’clock, fireworks announce the festivities at the church’s stairs.
As usual, during the morning, the carnival associations, such as Donzelas”, “Galera do Mar” and the traditional “Malê Debalê” add color and joy to the party. Several stands are assembled in the streets and people dance under the sound of trios.
Traditional festival of Portuguese origin, it symbolizes the visit of the Three Kings to Baby Jesus. It’s the festival that marks the end of Christmas festivities. The program is composed by the celebration of masses, on January 6th, visit to the Nativity scene in the interior of Lapinha Church, street festival and the presentation of the Terno de Reis (Epiphany). In Salvador, the summit of the festival is on January 5th, when there’s a parade of Terno de Reis (Epiphany) coming from different places of the city. Believers dress costumes and carry musical instruments for the parade, representing the Three Kings and other characters, through music, dance and rimes. One of the most traditional Ternos is Rosa Menina, created in 1945, in the district of Pernambués. Besides the live Nativity scene, there are stands to sell drinks, typical food and games.
Tradition of the city of Salvador, the so called “Ribeira’s fat Monday” antecedes the festivities of Bahia’s Carnival. It happens right after Bonfim’s Festival – it’s an extension of Salvador’s most traditional festival. In 2010, it will be celebrated on January 15th.
With a privileged view of the sea at the littoral of the bucolic district of Ribeira, in the Lower City, hundreds of stands – transferred from Bonfim Square; stage of the famous festival in honor of Our Lord of Bonfim – sell typical drinks and food. The festival takes place on Monday, with lots of music and folkloric presentations.
Saint Barbara's Festival
Around 1641, the businessmen and workers of Saint Barbara Market, at Comércio District, decided to pay tribute to the saint. Since then, the festivities became a tradition. Every December 4th, thousands of people attend masses and prepare “carurus” (typical dish made of okra and smoked shrimps) to honor her.
Saint Barbara is one of the most worshiped saints in Bahia. She’s the patron saint of the firefighters and the markets. In Candomblé, she’s represented by the deity Iansã – a fighter, lady of the bolts, winds and thunders. Nowadays, the festival lasts three days and start with a mass in Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos Church, in Pelourinho, where the image of the saint is displayed. During the closing of the religious festival, volunteers serve the traditional “caruru”, always accompanied by lots of samba and capoeira.
Santo Amaro and Our Lady Purificação Festival
The festivals of Senhor Santo Amaro and Our Lady of Purificação take place every year in the city of Santo Amaro, 74km away from Salvador, between January 24th and February 2nd. Traditionally, the Veloso family, led by Dona Canô, conducts the religious festival. The cortege passes by the house of Caetano Veloso and Maria Bethânia’s, and goes to the Mother Church. During the festivities, the stairs of the church are washed and there’s a procession, turning the homage into a big street festival.
The two great names of the city, Caetano Veloso and Maria Betânia, usually follow the procession with their mother, Dona Canô, and make shows during the festival.
São Lázaro’s Festival
Oldest community of the Parish of Our Lord’s Ressurection, São Lázaro’s Sanctuary, at Alto da Federação, is the stage of the festival in honor of the Catholic saint that, in Candomblé, is Omolu. The celebration, which unites the two faiths, happens usually on the last Sunday of January.
The ritual includes the festive mass, the triduo and the procession along the streets of São Lázaro to honor the saint. The influence of Candomblé is evident in the washing of the church’s stairs, the candles and the popcorn bath. Following the tradition of the festivals in Salvador, the sacred and the profane are blended with stands selling typical food and drinks, and lots of music.
The Saint and the Orixá, which are related to healing, receive objects as a demonstration of gratitude and faith at the Votive Offering Room, at Milagres Chapel, in São Lázaro Church. There, we can find photos, ribbons, letters and clothes, besides votive offerings in wax, which represent healing.