Pagan Xmas

I’m cheating a bit here because I both have the holidays on my mind, and because I don’t want to dig out my dictionary to search through the X’s – and I don’t feel like writing about xenophobia (or xylophones).

Despite the implication of the title, this post isn’t going to be about Yule.  This post is solidly about Xmas – or secular Christmas.  To paraphrase the immortal Bart Simpson:

“Lets not forget the true meaning of Christmas. You know, the birth of Santa.”

Poor Santa appears to be somewhat of a controversial figure in modern Paganism.  Considering that he is so whole-heartedly rejected by so many other religions, I think that there should be someone who embraces him.  After all, commercialism isn’t Santa’s fault.

In the last few days, I’ve seen posts in various places by Pagan parents saying that their children won’t be exposed to Santa.  Some that they want their kids to know that their gifts are from those who love them, and some that they don’t want their kids thinking that the only reason to be good is to get a reward.

There is a line of thought that says that the modern incarnation of Santa is the spirit of love and generosity.  Over at Patheos, Star Foster posited that he was one of our first gods.

It’s up to each parent to teach their kids morals.  I don’t believe that you need to remove the image of Santa Claus in order to teach your kids not to be greedy.  It can be as easy as exposing them to the joy of giving and helping those who are in need.

A pre-Xmas toy box (and clothes dresser) clean out is always a good tradition.  When I was little, my mom always used to give us change to donate so that we could get our own poppies on Remembrance Day. A similar tradition for this time of year might be giving to the Salvation Army via the red holiday pots.

Beyond the Coca-Cola red Santa that we all grew up with, the image of Santa Claus connects to old folk tales that I think are important to keep alive.  One example is in Germanic lore where Odin is said to ride his eight legged horse, Sleipnir, to the homes of kind children to leave gifts and candy.

For me, I’ve always seen Father Christmas in the tale of the Holly king.  The king of the dark half of the year comes to his full strength at midwinter solstice.  At Yule, the Oak King is reborn and the strength of the Holly King begins to wane as the days grow longer again.

In our house, Santa is always a bit more rustic looking than the character in the jolly red suit.  When I was small, my very first encounter with magic was through the wonder of the holiday season.  Dressing the Christmas tree, decorating our house with sparkling lights, nights that began at about four in the afternoon – all of it adding to the growing anticipation  that culminated in Christmas morning when we awoke to see that Santa had come.

The first thing I checked each and every Christmas morning, before I dove into my bulging stocking, was the plate of goodies that I’d left out the night before.  For me, the proof of Santa was that he always ate the cookies and drank the milk I left out for him (and fed the Rudolph the carrot I’d added to the plate).

That’s a kind of magic and enchantment that I couldn’t imagine denying my own little girl.  Especially considering how excited I am to now be on the giving end.  I just can’t wait to see her little face light up on Christmas morning.

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