|Location(s):||Mexico, New Mexico|
Santaria is a folk religion based on syncretism between Spanish Catholic beliefs and practices and popular 20th century Christmas myths.
The precise origins of when and where Santaria first developed as a worship system are unknown, and an exact time or location will likely never be discovered. Like other folk religious movements, such as the worship of La Trinca, the saints worshiped in the region by the Esqueleto chem cartel, as well as other wastelanders across Mexico and the American Southwest, Santaria was born from Catholic beliefs and practices. At some point, likely years after the Great War, the myth of Santa Claus became entwined with what was seen as Catholic dogma. Known as Santaria, the path is followed by hundreds, if not thousands, in northern Mexico and the American southwest.
Adherents pray for the intercession of Santa Claus to affect their lives in a positive and meaningful way. He is called upon for matters of love, health, wealth, wisdom, and justice, among other things.
Just what exactly Santa Claus is is up to debate, and differs from group to group. Some believe that Santa Claus was once a normal human being who did something extraordinary and became a saint. Others believe that Santa Claus is an angel, granting wishes in accordance with the will of God. A subset of those men and women believe that Santa is a fallen angel, and grants miracles in an attempt to win back God’s favor.
Santa generally appears as a joyous, portly male with gray hair and a long gray beard, clad in a red robe with white trimming, a red hat, and black boots. He is often depicted holding a bag, usually stuffed with goods or food for distribution.
Santa is said to live in a mystical realm not of this earth, far to the north. He resides there with his wife, magical elves that create all of the physical items that Santa delivers, and magical flying reindeer that transport him. He has numerous servants and intermediaries, including: Frosty, the Heat and Snow Miser, the Little Drummer Boy, Dominic the Donkey, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and the Three Wise Men.
While the religion is nominally Christian, and more specifically, nominally Catholic in nature, worshippers have in essence created their own religion. The most overt reference to the Christian origins of Santaria is the fact that Santa Claus serves “a higher power”, the Abrahamic God.
Culture & Practices
Most believers have shrines dedicated to their patron saint in their homes. These altars can vary from extremely basic- a card or candle depicting Santa’s image- to elaborate. It is customary for men and women to leave Santa offerings of milk and cookies in exchange for his blessings, though those with the means to leave more extravagant offerings do so, in addition to the milk and cookies. It is said that anyone who can leave Santa an offering of a limited edition Nuka Cola Christmas can will be guaranteed good tidings and cheer. In additional to personal shrines, most settlements with a preponderance of Santaria adherents have some kind of community shrine. These shrines generally take the form of a decorated tree or cactus. Worshippers pray near the plant, and leave trinkets on it that represent offerings and prayers.
In order to ward off evil, Santaria practitioners string brightly colored lights, ivy, mistletoe, and poinsettias around their homes. According to popular belief, the decorations fend off evil spirits, and by preventing evil spirits from entering ones home, one can prevent misfortune. When this practice fails to ward of evil and misfortune, believers pray to their patron, ending their prayers with the sacred phrase “ho, ho, ho”.
Santaria practitioners celebrate four major holidays: Noche Buena, Navidad, Dia de La Llegada de Las Poinsettias, and Muerte de Las Poinsettias. Noche Buena, December 24, celebrates the anniversary of the day that Santa Claus defeated his nemesis, Grinch, allowing the power of good to enter into the world, triumphing over the power of evil. Men and women Santa, asking for guidance, answers, protection, and physical gifts, tie the letters to small helium balloons, and release them into the air for him to receive them. Navidad, December 25, celebrates the birth of good into the world, with Santa acting as the entity that delivered it. At midnight, it is traditional for people to exchange presents with each other, fostering the goodwill that Santa delivered into the world. Dia de La Llegada de Las Poinsettias and Muerte de Las Poinsettias are two related holidays, the former taking place on the spring equinox and the latter on the fall equinox. The former marks the start of the harvest season, while the latter marks the end of it. The period of time is measured by the lifespan of the poinsettia plant.
Music is an important part of the faith. Songs are sung, in both Spanish and English, as ways to enhance of ritual worship, or as ritual worship itself. Most of the music that Santarians believe sacred was written and performed during Pre-War days, while only a handful of compositions have been created since. The Santaria songbook is quite large, with numerous Pre-War musicians having contributed. Among the most common and/or popular holy tunes are:
“The Christmas Song” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Nat King Cole, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, by Brenda Lee, “White Christmas”, “Come All Ye Faithful”, “Do You Hear What I Hear”, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, and “Winter Wonderland”, by Bing Crosby, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”, by Dean Martin, “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas” and “Silver Bells”, by Perro Como, “Sleigh Ride”, by The Ronettes, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “The Christmas Waltz”, by Frank Sinatra, “Santa Baby”, by Eartha Kitt, “Baby Its Cold Outside”, by Ella Fitzgerald, “What Child Is This? ”, by Johnny Mathis, and “Little Drummer Boy”, by Harry Simone.
The Vatican in Soto La Marina has condemned the group as blasphemous, calling it a "degeneration of the Lord’s religion.” More liberal priests and theologians accuse the SantaRians as unintentionally practicing heterodoxy and worthy of forgiveness should they want to return to the true church. Other, more conservative priests and theologians believe that the Santarians are heretics, and that their cult must be stamped out before it diverts others from the true path to God.
Members of Caesar’s Legion have nothing but disgust and loathing for the Santaria practitioners they encounter in New Mexico. They see the men and women who practice the faith to be weaklings undeserving of life because of their beliefs, which espouse kindness, togetherness, and general benevolence.