I'm wondering what other Pagan families tell their kids about Santa. I'm unsure how to approach the whole Santa situation when it comes to my son (he's only 1 yrs. old, so I have some time!).
Paganism is very broad, but if you are interested in European based practices which is where Santa originated… then this is what we share with our child:
Santa is a variation of the God, as the Greenman. In a popular tale of the Holly King and Oak King illustrates the Solar God’s cycle through the year. The Holly and Oak king battle for rulership over the year. At summer solstice the Holly King wins and slays the Oak King. At winter solstice the Holly King has grown old (Santa image of old man, perhaps with a crown of holly) and is slayed by the Oak King to ruler over the light half of the year. The oak is often represented as Mistletoe which grows on oak trees. Holly and mistletoe are long sacred plants in European lore, especially in the winter. The oak and holly king are 2 sides of the same face/ God. Each needs the other to make keep the cycle going.
Santa is also seen as a “ jolly old elf” toy maker, who has elves helping him to make toys for all the kids. The part about him coming into your home through the chimney is a testament to fae in general as well as spirits, who are usually thought to enter/exit a home through the chimney.
I quit like the general/modern image of Santa Claus. In a time when most male role models are young, muscular and only saving the world through fighting. Santa shows generosity, kindness and an honor of elder wisdom. Something I think we should encourage in our own lives.
So we definitely “do” Santa in our home, as most Americans do. We hang stockings, DS (age 8) visits the mall Santa and we give DS gift from Santa. We will do this as long as he is interested. When he “figures it out” we will let him know that the spirit of Santa never dies and is always alive in our hearts.
It depends on how you want to approach Santa. I am not pagan.
Bishop Nicholas was a real person. His actual feast day is Dec 6 which commemorates his real death. The fun traditions surrounding his feast day - stockings, chocolate coins (representing real coins), oranges (representing golden balls), and even fire places - all play into stories about his generosity. Heck even his red clothing (his bishops vestments) are a part of who he was as a real live person with a real life. So you could always approach it from a very historical perspective of celebrating a wise, generous and humble man. We celebrate him on the 6th. Our "Christmas Festivities" in include celebrating St Nicholas as refer to as Christmas. So he is a part but also separate....
Another approach is to focus on the modern secular "christmas character" Santa Claus. There are plenty of things we do at Christmas which have no relation to anything holy or Christian and I refuse to infuse any religious meaning on them. I am quite comfortable incorporating secular and cultural fun into our holidays. If i were not such a lazy slacker (my lack of santa can only honestly be attributed to laziness) I would do the whole presents from santa, reindeer tracks, elves, milk and cookies, and all of that without a hint of guilt, without trying to explain anything historical or give any kind of deeper meaning than it being a really fun game, story or tradition. It really is ok to take things at face value and just have fun with them as something that is culturally and traditionally significant. Not every part of any celebration has be packed knee deep with religious meaning. It can just be something fun people have always done for no other reason than the funness of it.
So if I were you I would just embrace Santa at face value and have a heck of a lot of fun. The American version of Santa is a hoot. Why not enjoy it without trying to make it part of some bigger historical or religious picture.
The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it. We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.