AP PHOTOS: Marujada procession mixes historical traditions

The sun edges into the sky, signaling to tens of thousands in the streets of this small city in northern Brazil that it's time to start walking toward the Church of St. Benedict.

Started in 1798, the Marujada religious celebration mixes indigenous, African and Portuguese traditions. It arose when black slaves persuaded their masters to let them form a brotherhood to pay homage to St. Benedict.

For the procession, women wear blue skirts and white shirts and don white circular hats streaming colorful ribbons. Men wear white pants and blue shirts.

Some people carry images of the baby Jesus, others hold pictures of St. Benedict.

During the latest procession, on Christmas Day, 62-year-old Jose Batista walked slowly with a group of men of all ages.

"It's a form of showing appreciation and making good on your promises for all the miracles one receives," Batista said.

Arriving at the church, participants spend the day dancing Lundu, a couple's dance that originated in Angola and involves spinning in circles.

The next day, people dress in red, a color also seen in street decorations, as the city begins a day of partying.

Clara Padilha Gomes, 77, said she participates to give thanks for her son.

"As long as I'm alive, I will be devoted," she said. "A person has to have faith."