The fusion of religions, of sacred and secular traditions, of past and present which make Salvador one of the most alluring and vibrant destinations in Brazil are about to take shape once again as the Washing of Bonfim.
The annual celebration with a firm base on the Candomblé faith - plus elements of Catholicism and flat-out partying - precedes the more strictly Catholic feast in honor of Our Lord of Bonfim (which will be the following Sunday).
The ritual washing of the steps at the 18th-century Nosso Senhor do Bonfim Church with an infusion of several herbs such as rue, lavender, and basil is the apex of festivities which start at the seaside church in the Comércio district devoted to Our Lady of Conception, and which include a five-mile parade/procession (cortejo) between the two churches.
In 2012, about 1 million people took part in the festivities, which have been more inclusive since the 2010 inauguration of an access ramp at the Nosso Senhor do Bonfim Church, a highly significant milestone noted by inclusive tourism advocate Ricardo Shimosakai. The devotion to Our Lord of Bonfim in Catholicism and to Oxalá, His counterpart in the Candomblé religion, is very strong in Bahia.
The partying includes samba, capoeira and more. Last year, members of Portela, one of Rio's samba schools in the Special Group, came to the Washing to Bonfim and performed with Olodum.
This year, the Washing do Bonfim will be on Jan.17. People will be gather in front of the Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia Church at about 8 a.m. and the cortejo will start at about 9 a.m.
As for the strictly Catholic celebration of the patron, the Bahia Secretariat of Tourism (Setur) informs that there will be a novena from Jan.10 to Jan.19 (except on Jan.17), always at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Jan. 20, Dom Murilo Krieger, Archbishop of Salvador, will say the solemn Mass at 10 a.m. and the Procession of Three Wishes, another time-honored tradition, will leave from Igreja dos Mares to Bonfim at 4 p.m.
In the seamless blend of faith and fun that makes up the Washing of Bonfim, there is room for extra partying - in which the most consistent event has been Enxaguada du Bonfim (the "Bonfim Rinse") with Carlinhos Brown and guest performers at his Museu du Ritmo (Av. Jequitaia, n. 1, Comércio, Jan.17, gates open at 2 p.m, tickets R$40 and up at Ticketmix POS at Shopping Barra, Shopping Iguatemi, Shopping Paralela and Salvador Shopping).