Color Meanings of Brazilian Wish Bracelets and the History of Bahia Bands

Illustration of Brazilian Wish Bracelets or Bahia Bands with different colors and meanings

Bahia Bands, also known as Brazilian wish bracelets, have been getting a lot of attention. People all over the world have discovered the unique and colorful charm of these fashionable accessories.

These seemingly simple objects have an extensive history behind them. What’s more, every Bahia Band’s color makes a specific statement to the world.

Let’s take a closer look at Brazilian wish bracelets and what their colors mean.

The History and Changing Nature of Bahia Bands

Hand touching colorful Senhor do Bonfim ribbons at Pelourinho in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

People who encounter Bahia Bands for the first time will usually just think of them as a fun accessory. They come in a wide assortment of colors and are just distinct enough to hint at a larger meaning. It’s little wonder that so many people quickly ask the band’s owner about it. We also shouldn’t be surprised by how eager people are to share the bands with others. It’s not uncommon for people in Salvador to wrap them around the wrists of visitors as a gift.

But what seems like a fun accessory at first glance actually has a long and important history. The bands were originally known as Bonfim Ribbons, fita do Senhor do Bonfim, or the shortened fitas. Fitas were originally worn as a religious necklace. People would typically attach holy images or medallions onto these neck ribbons. The past two hundred years have seen the tradition change in some ways.

Several Bahia Bands tied around a pole with a blurred coconut tree and the ocean in the background

For example, Bahia Bands are usually worn on people’s wrists now. It’s true that they might show up in other locations on someone’s person as well. But these ornaments have become a worldwide sensation in large part as a wrist accessory. If they do appear elsewhere on someone’s body then it isn’t necessarily going to be as a necklace. It’s just as probable that someone will have the band on their purse or hat as around their neck.

While the positioning of Bahia Bands has changed, their overarching meaning hasn’t. Bahia Bands are inscribed with a meaningful statement of “Lembrança do Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia”. This translates to “remembrance of the savior of Bahia”. It’s a call to both piety and for divine favor.

As a band is tied around someone’s wrist, it is knotted three separate times. Every time a knot is tied, the owner should make a wish. At this point people are expected to keep the band on. It’s considered bad luck to cut the band off. Instead, the wearer is supposed to let fate take care of both the band and the wishes. This wish should also tie in to the bands color. Each color has a particular meaning which can help keep people focused on their overall goal.

Color Meanings of Brazilian Wish Bracelets

Brazilian wish bracelets from the Nosso Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia church in Salvador

Turquoise and Light Blue

Turquoise and light blue are quite similar to each other. Likewise, they have a shared meaning when used on a Bahia Band. Turquoise and light blue bands both symbolize a wish for love and peace.

Very Different Meanings for Green Bands

Green bands have differing meanings based on their particular shade. Dark green Bahia Bands usually relate to money in some ways. Though they may also signify a wish for growth. Light green bands typically signify life or a renewal of some sort. A notable example of a light green band comes from the recent marriage of Princess Madeleine of Sweden. She wore a subtle, but still readily apparent, light green band on her wedding day. It’s clear that she was wishing for all of the wonderful renewals of life and love which a wedding entails.

A Darker Shade of Blue

Like green bands, different shades of blue have different meanings on a Bahia Band. We’ve seen that light blue bands symbolize a desire for peace or love. If we took the blue into a darker shade then the meaning would change. In this context the dark blue band would signify a wish for comfort, fertility and health. It’s clear that a dark blue band would also be a great choice for weddings.

Red and Orange Shine With Unbridled Enthusiasm

Red and orange bands feature an eye catchingly bright motif. They also have quite similar, if still distinct, meanings. Both of the colors symbolize an energetic passion. However, red bands are more heavily focused on pure strength. An orange band indicates hope for a more joyful enthusiasm.

Hand placed on Brazilian wish bracelets in Salvador Brazil

A Brilliant Yellow Leads to Brilliant Ideas

Yellow tends to come in brilliant shades. Likewise, a yellow Bahia Band indicates a wish for things related to intelligence. A brilliant yellow color shows a desire for brilliant ideas. It might also suggest that someone is looking for a larger form of success in life.

White and Grey Indicate a Path to Wisdom

White and grey fade into each other quite easily. Both of these colors also share a similar meaning when seen on a Bahia Band. White usually indicates that someone is wishing for wisdom or tranquility. Grey is similar, but more focused on how we deal with other people. A grey band usually suggests that someone is wishing for a greater level of patience for or understanding of others.

Spirituality Painted in a Beautiful Shade of Purple

Purple has traditionally been used to indicate royalty. However, when used in a Bahia Band the color purple will instead suggest someone who’s wishing for spirituality. This means that white, grey and purple bands have a lot in common. Each tends to suggest that someone is striving for a wiser and more spiritually oriented way of relating to the world.

Friendship Shining as Bright as the Color Pink

A bright pink Bahia Band is certainly noticeable. And the person wearing it typically hopes for friendships just as notable as the brightest hot pink imaginable.

Letting Color Act as a Guide to the Future

Fitas do Senhor do Bonfim ribbons in different colors

Bahia Bands have a strong connection to religious practice. But the colorful bands also serve as a reminder of the sheer beauty present in the world. In addition to wearing bands, people also tie them to the gates of Salvador’s Church of Our Lord of the Good End. The band’s colors all come together on the gate to create a beautiful and unified whole.

Likewise, all of the wishes associated with the bands share a unified thread. Each band shows someone who’s using color to look into the future he wants to create for himself. The colors are beautiful on their own while also signifying a beautiful desire to make the most out of life.