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The ribbons, originally representing a "measure" or length of the forearm of the statue of Christ on the original altar, were worn around the neck to hold wax charms, often carved in the likeness of the part of the body which required healing.
Bahia is regarded as a place of healing by many, and the brightly coloured fitas thickly festoon the church gates.
This fashionable bonfim ribbon is now seen on the wrist, as part of a hipanema bracelet, or tied to bags for luck when travelling.
It is traditionally knotted three times, to represent three wishes, and worn until it falls off on its own.
Superstitious belief dictates that the ribbon should always be given, never bought and should always be tied on by another, and that if you cut it off or remove it before it wears out then your wishes will not come true.
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