Salvador, the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia, invites many people around the world to find out for themselves why it is known as the Land of Happiness. Shining with an enchanting glow, Salvador provides countless of reasons for a good celebration. One of the most popular festivals is the maritime procession of Senhor Bom Jesus dos Navegantes or Good Jesus of Boatmen.
On the first day of the year, a maritime procession honors Bom Jesus dos Navegantes. The tradition was started by sailors way back in the middle of the 18th century who were asking for divine protection at sea. Considered by many as an important ritual to have a good start in the new year, the procession and the mass are a time for people to count their blessings and pray for protection.
The festival follows the procession of the image of Bom Jesus dos Navegantes from Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia Church, to the Barra Lighthouse, and then to the Boa Viagem Beach in front of the Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem Church. Hundreds of rafts, boats, and yachts accompany the maritime procession.
The mass at Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia Basilica
The precession begins with a mass on New Year’s Day at the Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia Basilica, where Bom Jesus dos Navegantes’s image is shown. The soteropolitanos, or the Salvador natives, then take the image to the Second Naval District Command, which is just across the church. The church is located at the foot of the hill dividing Salvador’s cidade baixa and cidade alta (low and high areas).
In addition to the Bom Jesus dos Navegantes procession, the Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia Basilica celebrates another major festival on December 8: the celebration of Our Lady of Conception, Bahia’s patron. Five other churches in Salvador are devoted to the Our Lady of Conception.
The maritime procession
Maritime procession follows. Having been sprinkled with água de cheiro (fragrant water), the image is then placed on the Gratidão do Povo (Gratitude of the People) boat. From the Second Naval District Command pier, the image is then taken to the Barra Lighthouse, then to Segundo Armazém das Docas. Finally, the image of Bom Jesus dos Navegantes is taken to Boa Viagem Beach in front of the Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem Church.
The procession is followed by hundreds of boats. This year, the Bom Jesus dos Navegantes procession lasted more than 4 hours. Many devotees as well as tourists partied at the Boa Viagem Beach on the eve of the new year and waited the procession to arrive there.