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Colorful Afro-Brazilian parade on Three Kings Day

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Bruna Prado/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Residents of the Morro da Formiga favela on Thursday marked a Three Kings Day religious celebration in colorful costumes and music blending Afro-Brazilian culture with the traditional catholic symbols of the annual religious holiday.

The "The Bright Star of Bethlehem" is a "Folia de Reis" (Kings Revelry) group that focuses on passing the folklore culture to the children of Morro da Formiga community, a tradition that has been present for more than 80 years in the favela.

Although having a parade full of revelry and dancers scaring young children, the groups are based on devotion, solidarity, discipline and union.

Despite the scary look, performers are known as clowns.

"When I lost my father, one of the best things that happened to me was to join the group, it was the place that I most distracted myself because I was in a very difficult moment in my life. I thank the group for many things that happened in my life," said 18-year-old reveler Francis Roberta.

Three Kings Day celebrations were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 skyrocketing numbers in Brazil.

After a period under control at the end of last year, the number of cases climbed as the omicron variant hit the country.

"We can see that the pandemic is growing again, but today, Three Kings day, we had to carry out this mission (to celebrate) Three Kings Day. We are taking all safety measures," said revelry master Claudio de Jesus.

The Epiphany, celebrated annually on Jan. 6, marks the Biblical journey of The Three Kings; Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, to visit baby Jesus.

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