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Important Festivals

Salvador da Bahia

Festivals da Salvador

The popular festivals trace their origins back to the tradition of communities of paying tribute to their patron saints, expressing their gratitude for blessings obtained. During the event the requests for peace, good health, and wealth are renewed.

The centuries old custom was inherited by the Portuguese and has been changed through the years. Originally the festival presented just people praying and chanting to their patron saints, but with time, stands selling drinks and food appeared, giving to the festival an entertainment characteristic. The songs are no longer strictly religious ones. On the streets can be heard the the typical capoeira and samba beats along with other rhythms.

These changes transported the festivals beyond the communities and churches’ largos into the streets. Nowadays they are registered by the curious eyes of tourists and by TV cameras from all over the world. They come to Salvador to appreciate these moments, which express so well the icons of the local culture such as Candomblé, Catholicism, gastronomy, dancing and music.

The festivals take place all through the year, without ever losing their enthusiasm. These guarantees a good time from January until December, for both the faithful and those who come only to visit. Salvador provides a million reasons for a good celebration and some of the best-known popular festivals are Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, the Yemanjá festivity and Nossa Senhora da Conceição.

Salvador is a land of all saints and the people celebrate accordingly. It shines with a magical glow that invites every person from every corner of the earth to find out why Salvador has been named the Land of Happiness.
The Most Importants Festivals in Salvador are:

  • Boa Viagem e Bom Jesus dos Navegantes Feast
  • Bonfim Washing
  • Farol Folia
  • Yemanjá Festival
  • Children's Day (Dia de Crianças)
  • Itapuã Church Washing
  • Carnival
  • Conceição da Praia Pageant
  • Christ’s Passion - Holy Week
  • International Fireworks Festival
  • Good Death's Sisters Festival
  • Black Consciousness Day
  • Day of the Samba (Dia do Samba)
  • Saint Barbara Feast Day (Festa de Santa Barbara)
  • Christmas
  • New Year's Eve
Popular Festivals
One of Salvador's most fascinating aspects is the great number of intensely celebrated religious and devotional festivals held throughout the year.

Salvador has kept the heavy African influence that was brought over with the 1.3 million slaves during the "white gold" sugar boom. The many gods of Candomble that have long been forgotten in Africa- Oxala, Oxossi, Xangô Yemanja and Iansa- are everyday household names in Bahia, and a lot of the events that take place on the social calendar revolve around religious holidays and celebrations. Thus many of the festivals hold, at least in part, a religious tradition. 

"Festa profana" means a non-religious part of a religious celebration.
The mixture of Catholicism with ancestral practices of Candomblé and indigenous beliefs makes this city a Mecca of Brazilian religious beliefs. Expressions of faith are not confined to the hallowed halls of cathedrals and Candomblé temples - they spill over into the houses, streets, squares and the vast blue sea. An full calendar of celebrations which have been held for over 300 years take place the year round, occurring with more frequency during the summer months. Catholic festivities replete with commemorative masses and processions take place alongside corteges of mothers-of-saints honoring their orixás. Families gather together to recite the novenas for Saint Anthony or prepare the special caruru feast for either the Candomblé erês or Saints Cosme and Damião.

Processions over land or sea may honor, depending on your belief, either Nosso Senhor do Bonfim or Oxalá, or the patron saint of seafarers or Iemanjá. The number and intensity of festivals increases until Carnival, which culminates the cycle of popular festivals.

The religious festivals are interlaced with profane celebrations - proof being Carnival, whose date is determined by the Lenten period, which in turn is set by the cycle of the moon.

New Years Eve (Novo Anos)
December 31st
New Year's Eve - People come dressed in white for good luck, light candles and throw flowers and offerings to the goddess of the sea, Yemanja. There is also a large display of fireworks, and in front of the lighthouse-farol- are performances by famous and prominent Brazilian musicians. The celebration stretches from the lighthouse to Porto da Barra, with tables set up, music blasting, people dancing, and parties hopping.

Festa da Boa Viagem e do Bom Jesus dos Navegantes Feast. A tradition that remounts to mid 18th century, this fête is one of
Salvador’s most beautiful popular manifestations. It takes place on New Year’s Eve, when people go on with New Year’s celebrations at Boa Viagem Beach.

On the Boa Viagem at Itapagipe Beach, there is the Festa do Senhor Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, which is a boat carrying a picture of Jesus dos Navegantes. It is launched from a church and accompanied by many other smaller boats.

There is no better time to be in Salvador Bahia than for New Years Celebrations!

January 1st
(a national holiday)                                                             
Maritime procession of Bom Jesus dos Navegantes
(at Boa Viagem Beach)

The procession, accompanied by hundreds of boats, starts in
front of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao da Praia
(Church of Our Lady). Going near the Farol da Barra, and ending
at the beach of Boa Viagem . Inquire me for the possibility to
participate in this procession.

Sunset with Daniela Mercury show— at Farol da Barra
The contemporary Queen of the Carnival of Salvador, Daniela Mercury, presents a free show at the first sunset of the new year.

A Folia de Reis (Epiphany), aka Festa da Lapinha — at Lapinha Place
January 5th and 6th
This is a procession by local people who celebrate the birth of Jesus, starting after December 24th until January 6th. It is represented by the three wise men from the East, carrying  gifts to the baby Jesus. At Lapinha Place the festival goes on with theatrical presentations, kiosks with typical food, and music.

Farol Folia

First 2 weeks of January
Farol Folia - This is a pre-Carnaval celebration that takes place in the first 2 weeks of January, with Carnaval blocos partying and dancing around their respective trio eletricos. In 1998, the Salvador Carnival had a great “preview”, which eventually joined the calendar of Annual Carnival Celebrations. This was the ‘Farol Folia,’ gathering at first, in the Dodô/Barra-Ondina Circuit, with thousands of people parading disguised as 'popcorn'. 

 Lavagem do Bonfim

 Second Thursday of every January

Lavagem do Bonfim - This huge and beautiful festival takes place on the second Thursday of every January, and has been doing so since 1754. It is a huge celebration for the Catholic and Candomble faiths together, for N.S. do Bonfim is loved for his embracing catholics- and non-catholics alike, and he is associated with the Candomble god Oxala as with Jesus Christ, respectively.

Everyone gathers at the famous
Church of Conceicao da Praia and proceeds over to the Church of Bonfim 10 kilometers away. Here, barefoot baianas wash and cleanse the steps, which comes from the old tradition of the washing of the inside of the church that has now been carried over into a ritual of just the steps.

Horse drawn carriages, government officials, musicians, natives, those of Candomble faith, Catholics and tourists all gather and follow the Filhos de Gandhy (Sons of Ghandi) They march right by the Baianas who are all dressed in white with colorful sacred beads and elongated white vases filled with flowers and water on their heads. As they then proceed to wash the steps, ten of thousands of others spread about the many set-up booths for food and drink, and some famous trio eletricos form the background of Brazilian beat. There is non-stop drumming, and everyone is in white as people proceed to dance, drink, eat acaraje and be blessed by the holy water that pours onto their hands and heads from the Baianas vases. Many locals also choose to hop on a bus and go down to Conceicao da Praia Church where the music from the trios continues until dawn.

Festa da Ribeira...
...or Segunda-Feira Gorda (Fat Monday), the Monday immediately following the Lavagem do Bonfim.  The barracas (drink stands) around the Igreja do Bonfim pull up and move down the way to the neighborhood of Ribeira, where there is another huge party along the waterfront.

Festa de São Lazaro (Saint Lazarus)
January 25th through 28th.  Celebrated at and around the Igreja de São Lazaro in the neighborhood of Federação.  São Lazaro is syncretized with Omolu -- the orixá governing sickness and health -- and during mass inside the church worshippers receive a banho de pipoca (popcorn bath), a ritual common in candomblé.

Festa de Yemanja

Here is some footage of the Procession for Yemaya recorded February 2nd, 2011 in Salvador, Bahia - Brazil.

Truly Magical Event. Pretty cool to witness.

If you are interested in visiting Bahia, Brazil to witness events like this live go here:
Every year on February 2nd
Yemaya Festival to the Mother Goddess, the Queen of the Ocean
 Festa de Yemanja - The beauty of this festival is echoed in the title of this goddess to whom the festival is dedicated: The Goddess of the Sea. Every year on February 2nd fireworks are sounded at 5 am, and the faithful gather around the temporary shack built to store gifts to Yamanja on the Rio Vermelho Beach. Inside is a silver or bronze statue of the goddess admiring herself in the mirror (which is why a common offering is a small, hand held mirror) The goddess is beautiful and aware of her beauty. Other offerings include beads, white roses, soap and perfume bottles which are placed in baskets guarded by the Baianas outside of Yemanjas temporary "temple." There are also notes written, asking for wishes to be granted.

The Maes de Santo- Candomble priestess- dance and chant near-by, performing the traditional religious dances to the persistent beating of drums.

Once the baskets are full- usually at about 4 p.m.- the offerings are transferred over to many boats that are then floated out to sea andguarded by the statue of Yemanja- which is returned then by the fishermen for next years celebration. Afterwards, in Bahian style, people fill the streets for another all-night celebration of life.

Between the Yemanjá Party and Carnival
Lavagem de Itapoan — at Itapuã beach

A party where the mãe de santos of the Candomblé wash the steps of the Itapoan Church with scented water. This ceremony symbolizes the religious expression of the Candomblé where Our Lady of the Conception becomes Yemanjá, 

CARNIVAL (Carnaval) 2013
February 7-13th
Carnival in Salvador Bahia - This is the greatest source of joy for the people of Bahia. Only the party’s organization involves the direct participation of 25 thousand people. Its dimensions are gigantic. Salvador’s Carnival is billed as the largest ‘Street party’ in the world! 
When you experience Carnival in Salvador Bahia for the first time you’ll find It to be a truly amazing spectacle to witness and be a part of – imagine partying with more than 2 million people on the streets, squares and avenues, celebrating and enjoying yourself to the max for a entire week. Twenty five (25) thousand people are involved in the organization of this grand event and people of the state as well as tourists look forward to the Salvador de Bahia Carnaval every year during this most festive time to be in Brazil. Needless to say, it is a gigantic event to witness. Annually, Salvador Bahia hosts almost 800 thousand (more like 2 million) visitors from different municipalities which are located at a distance of 93 miles (150kms) for this incredible event with worldwide appeal.

Samba-Reggae, Afoxê and Axé music rule this musical extravaganza. You will also come across many blocos participating in these carnivals- Olodum, Malé, Debalé and Filhos de Gandhi are the ones famous of the lot. The Salvador de Bahia Carnival is the paradise for music lovers across the globe. The non-stop party and music - it just can't get better than this!

Salvador Bahia is all about happiness, laughter, music, dance and romance. The people of Salvador are warm and friendly and if you visit the state during the Carnival you will feel you are one of them. The people here love to share their culture and tradition with all of us. (See our Schedule for complete Carnival Schedule Until 2030)  
The whole experience is thrilling and the glittery street is a treat to your eyes. The excitement and enjoyment knows no bounds, beautiful Brazilians on the streets and in their best form, it's simply amazing. Besides, you can have your share of the delicious Afro-Brazilian delicacy - Acarajé – this specialty food with roots in West African is specially made for this festive event by the beautiful Baianas- the Bahian woman, dressed in milky white gowns. You can also have sea food and other Brazilian specialties, right on the street.

Salvador’s Carnival is well protected and police are very helpful and sincere. Heavy patrolling is done so that the people do not miss out any event of the celebration. Their protection and well being is under the jurisdiction of Bahian police.

Hope we see you in Salvador Bahia this New Years!

Festa de Arembepe...
...takes place in Arembepe, 42 km to the north of Salvador, on a determined date during the month of February.

April 21st - 24th, 2011
(April 22nd is a national holiday)
Holy Week Celebration

During the Holy Week, most of the locals travel outside of the city to enjoy the holiday. Those who stay in the city usually go to The Tororó Dyke, where more than 100 actors perform the Passion of Christ on floating platforms in an exquisite show of beauty with the participation of the Salvador Children’s Choir. If you want to avoid the crowd during your vacation, this is a good time to come to Salvador,
but be aware that banks and other services are closed during the holiday.
April 21st (a national holiday)
Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as “Tiradentes” is considered a national hero for leading the Brazilian revolutionary movement known as the “Inconfidência Mineira,” demanding the full independence of Portugal and creating the Brazilian republic. Tiradentes was arrested, tried and publicly hanged, when his plan was discovered.

May 1st
(a national holiday)
Labor day
Bembé do Mercado...
...takes place in the town of Santo Amaro (in the Recôncovo, 73 km from Salvador) from the 10th through the 14th of May (these are the dates for 2006).

The festa ("Bembé is a corruption of "Candomblé"; "Mercado" comes from "Praça do Mercado" -- or "Marketplace") was first celebrated (in Santo Amaro's marketplace, of course) on the 13th of May, 1889, by Santo Amaro's black populace in recognition of the abolition of slavery in Brazil one year before (more specifically, João de Obá took his people's newfound liberty to task by openly playing the rhythms of candomblé in a public square, whence grew a festa around him), and the festa has been celebrated every year since with the exceptions of 1958 (when an explosion/fire killed 300 people) and 1989 (when the biggest flood in the history of the city took place).  The festa is now regarded as protecting the city!.

Bembé do Mercado is replete with folkloric presentations, including samba-de-roda, nego fugido, maculelé, capoeira, and bumba-meu-boi.  On the morning of the 14th Santo Amaro's terreiros de candomblé gather up offerings to Yemanjá, releasing them into the waters of the bay from the praia (beach) of Itapema on the Baia de Todos os Santos (until 2002 the offerings were released at São Bento das Lajes, a district of São Francisco do Conde).

Corpus Christi

The 10th of June.
Celebrated in Pelourinho.

Festa de Santo Antônio
June 13th.  Celebrated in the Largo de Santo Antônio, at the far end of Salvador's neighborhood of Santo Antônio além do Carmo (Pelourinho being at the other end).  Santo Antônio is the patron saint of matrimony, his assistance sought by young women hoping (praying) for husbands.  This festa opens the June celebrations.

                               São João (Saint John)
    Celebrated in June
São João (Saint John) - This celebration takes place in June, and is traditionally a harvest festival with typical foods containing corn, liquor from the genipapo fruit, and bonfires. It is a family and friends celebration, and takes place within the small town where each person's families are from. For foreigners to Salvador, there are plenty "family" interiors held for the general public, with shows and square dancing. Forro (country style) music is the primary accompaniment to this celebration.
São João is a harvest festival, and in a sense it feels a lot more like Christmas than Brazil's "real" Christmas (or Natal). This is because it's a family-and-friends gathering, the tradition being to head into the interior, to the pequena cidade (small town) one or one's family hails from. If you don't have your own pequena cidade there are plenty of them in the interior promoting parties in June -- putting on shows and hosting quadrilhas (square dancing) for the general pubic. Amargosa is one of the best-known.

Traditional accompaniments to São João are foods made from corn (milho), licor de genipapo (sweet liquor made from the genipapo fruit), bonfires, and firecrackers (the latter tending to go off all during June, to the chagrin of many good citizens!).

During the festas juninas the Parque de Exposições (Exhibition Park) north of Salvador is all fixed up like a town in the interior and shows -- extremely popular shows primarily featuring the big, commercial forró bands -- are staged.

Festa de São Pedro (Saint Peter)

This festa in honor of the patron saint of widows and fishermen, held on the 29th of June (more forró), winds up the June celebrations.

BAHIA INDEPENDENCE DAY - (Festa da Independência da Bahia)
July 2nd

Bahia Independence Day - Celebrated in Campo Grande.  Civic celebration that praises the incoming of the Brazilian liberating forces in Salvador, in 1823. Even after the proclamation of the Independence of Brazil, Bahia continued to be occupied by the Portuguese forces of the Brigadier Madeira de Mello. On July 2nd of the same year, the national army entered the town through ‘Estrada das Boiadas’, now Liberdade (Freedom). The date then was celebrated with intense popular participation as the Bahia Independence Day. Its commemoration includes cultural events and representations of historic facts, allegory floats and groups representing the community.

Good Death's Sisters Festival 

(Irmandade da Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte)

 August 12-14 - 2011

The Good Death’s Sisters Festival is perhaps one of the most unique experiences that you will ever witness. This Good Death's Sisters Festival has as its main objective to thank her "for liberty granted". This colorful celebration has been held for more than a century in the city of Cachoeira Bahia located about 2 hours, by luxury coach, west of Salvador in the area surrounding All Saints' Bay.

The last day of the festival is when the Assumption of Our Lady is commemorated. The festival includes a three day devotion celebrated at the Our Lady of the Rosary of the Port of Cachoeira Church, a prayer vigil, a festive mass, two processions, a dinner and a lunch at the headquarters of the sisterhood as well as performances of samba de roda-a traditional style of samba danced in a circle.

The Sisterhood of Good Death, a closed society that only accepts females of African descent is responsible for organizing the entire event. The devotion to Our Lady of Good Death was initiated at the Barroquinha Church in Salvador by freed female slaves who founded the society around 1823, the objective of which was to work and save enough money to buy the freedom of the other sisters. (See out tour schedule for details about our next Good Death’s Sisters Festival tour)

Festa de São Roque
Celebrated on the 16th of August in the São Lázaro area of the neighborhood of Federação.

Independência do Brasil (Brazilian Independence Day)
7 de Setembro (September 7)
Brazil’s Independence Day celebrations feature a military parade down - Avenida Sete de Setembro - that runs along the same route of Salvador’s Carnival street parade.

São Cosme e São Damião

On the 27th of September, the festa of the two Arab saints, a day when everybody eats carurú, a kind of vegetable stew made from quiabo (okra).  When people say they are having a carurú however they mean that guests are served a traditional plate including this food (and vatapá, among other things ), something representative of people coming together in family and friendship.

CHILD’S DAY - (Dia das Crianças)

 October 12th
Child’s Day - This is the national holiday of Our Lady Aparecida, Brazil’s Patron Saint, and it is celebrated on October 12th, which is also Child’s day. Throughout the whole city, the main parks and malls prepare special events to commemorate the date. The core spot of the feast happens traditionally in the City Park where many activities and shows take place for child’s enjoyment.

November 2nd
(a national holiday)
Finados (Day of the Dead)
November 15
(a national holiday)
Proclamacao da Republica (The Proclamation of the Republic)

                            Black Consciousness Day
(Dia da Consciência Negra)

November 20th

Black Consciousness Day - (November 20th) Is an annual holiday in Brazil that is similar to MLK – Martin Luther King Day in the USA. On this day the public pays tribute to an African ancestor, Zumbi dos Palmares, revered by blacks in this country for his fierce resistance to slavery in the 17th century. The day was consciously chosen to symbolize the ongoing struggles of blacks to achieve social and economic equality in Brazil.
Baiana Day (Dia da Biana)
November 25th
Baiana Day - Participated in by dozens of Baianas traditionally dressed in white hooped lace dresses and colored beads representative of  various orixás, Dia da Baiana opens with a mass at church Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos (Church Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks) on the Largo do Pelourinho...and continues with a lunch of traditional Bahian food, samba de roda and other activities at the SENAC restaurant, also located on the largo.  This event is not traditional, having been started by state tourism agency Bahiatursa in the '80s.

Caminhada Axé...

Thisis a march -- from Ondina to Barra -- which takes place sometime during (or close to) the Brazilian summer.  No trio-elétricos, lots of drumming and folklore.

Samba Day - Dia do Samba
December 2nd
Dia do Samba was created by the Câmara Municipal (Salvador City Council) in the 1940s to honor composer Ary Barroso (who was born on this day), the first show in commemoration of the day taking place in 1972 with the participation of Gilberto Gil. Subsequent years have included and continue to include Bahia's greatest sambistas. Festivities take place in the Praça Municipal on a huge stage.

Festa de Santa Bárbara
December 4-6
Festa de Santa Bárbara - Dedicated not to the saint but to the goddess Iansã - Santa Bárbara is syncretized with Iansã, wife of Xangô and goddess of the winds. A mass is celebrated in her honor at church Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos (7 a.m.), and later (11:00 a.m.) a procession proceeds through Pelourinho to the Corpo de Bombeiros (Fire Station) in the Baixo dos Sapateiros, where participants are greeted by the sounding of sirens (Santa Bárbara is the patron saint of firefighters) and a grand carurú to be served to the public. From there everything moves on to the Mercado de Santa Bárbara where the stallholders have prepared their own carurús to be served to the public (5 p.m.), and where it is very, very crowded. Red and white are the colors to be worn.

Festa da Nossa a Senhora da Conceição da Praia
Nossa Senhor da Conceição da Praia is the patron saint of Bahia.  Held on December 8th, this festa in the cidade baixa (in the area of the Mercado Modelo and locally referred to simply as "Conceição") kicks off the festival season (December 8th being the day of the Catholic Church's Festa da Nossa Senhora da Conceição). Basically Everyone goes to the beach on this day!

Festa de Santa Luzia
December 13th, on Rua do Pilar in Comércio.


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  1. Great information on festivals in Bahia!

  2. Peace & Thanks. Bahia is an incredible place where every other week is a holiday!


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