The Lavagem das Escadarias do Bonfim (Bonfim Stairs Washing) - or simply Lavagem do Bonfim – is Bahia's second largest popular gathering, only behind Carnival. The ritual, which has happened yearly since 1754, gathers thousands of people and always happens on the second Thursday of January, after the Epiphany (or Three King's Day).
At 10 A.M., the participants meet in front of the Igreja Conceiçao da Praia (Conceiçao da Praia Church), all dressed in white, and walk 8 km toward the Igreja do Senhor do Bonfim (Senhor do Bonfim Church). The ritual's trademark is the presence of the baianas (the local women), with their typical full white dresses. They pour scented water over the Church stairs and people's heads, in a ritual of faith and hope, to the sound of African chants.
The closing of the ceremony, which means purification, is an opportunity to feast yourself in typical cuisine, such as the famous acaraje - a beans dumpling, fried in dende oil, filled with vatapa, which is a filling made of shrimp, coconut milk and peanuts.
As in all public and busy places, mind your belongings.
Wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water.