Pagan Parenting: The Christmas Conundrum

We’re thinking about starting to decorate our home for the Winter Solstice today.  My daughter is very excited but there’s a little confusion, too.  Excuse me while I just share some of my thoughts.  Perhaps you’ve thought similar things, or perhaps you have ideas that could inspire me.
  She is now old enough to understand that Christmas is a thing. We enjoy watching popular kids shows together, so she’s been exposed to the dominant culture and she keeps talking about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas… Now, I’m not against her knowing about Christmas. It’s actually really important to me that she understands the diversity of the world. Much of our extended family is Christian anyway, so she needs to know why they do what they do. But… can I just be honest with you guys and say it’s frustrating? She’s constantly talking about celebrating Christmas now. Whenever she talks about getting Christmas presents, I say something like, “Yes, you will get Solstice presents.” I’m trying to gently show her what we celebrate in our home.  I keep telling her that they are similar, because they are and I also want her to realize that, but we focus on winter and the sun.  Still, most of her kid shows talk about Christmas, so that word is on the fore of her mind.
On a related note, I’m still unsure what to do about Santa. Yes, I love the Emerald Rose song “Santa Clause is Pagan, Too” – I get all of that. My concern is that I don’t really want to delve into the tradition of pretending to be Santa. That hurt me when I was little. I’ve been telling my daughter that Santa is a spirit of generosity who inspires us to be giving to each other. I say he “whispers in our ears and tells us to get gifts for each other to make people happy.” She seems content with that, but I know that will be hard when she starts going to school. As it is, her cousin, raised in a Christian household, gets gifts specifically from Santa, which will one day create an awkward but ultimately educational experience.
I’m not sure that I want to honor Santa like Odin despite the suggested origins and similarities.  I experienced some very strong UPG in which Brighid became hostile towards me working closely with Norse deities.  I am fascinated with Krampus but don’t really know what to do with that right now aside from enjoying the costumes I see online.  I like to think of Santa like a tomte or nisse from Scandinavia. My husband has Norwegian heritage, so it feels really good to honor that with Yule/Winter Solstice in our usually Celtic-focused home without upsetting Brighid and without giving Odin casual attention only once a year.
I’ve done some research on winter traditions among the Celts, particularly Irish, and know there isn’t a lot to work with. I tend to focus on the sun and Angus because of Newgrange, and An Cailleach because of the difficult weather in Upstate NY. I also know about some of the traditions that came to Ireland through Christianization – putting a red candle in the window to help Mary and Joseph find their way, and giving Santa beer, for example.
Our household traditions grow and change as my daughter does.  I feel like some of my personal traditions exist because I’m clinging to something from my childhood while also trying to create something that makes sense in the context of my religion and lifestyle.  Winter Solstice has become strange to me, but still exciting.  It’s interesting, and I welcome the challenge because it forces me to really think and consider all I do, but it’s also frustrating because I don’t want my daughter to feel as bruised about it all as I was once upon a time.  I worry about her going to school and all the confusion that may bring.  Or maybe that’s me projecting my own confusions and frustrations onto her?  I’m still trying to figure that out as I’m sure many first generation Pagan parents are.
Time for me to dig out that story about Brighid and Santa from an old Oak Leaves…
What do you do for the Winter Solstice with your family?  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow ADFers and/or Celtic polytheists who have children.



Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

5 thoughts on “Pagan Parenting: The Christmas Conundrum

  1. I’m not sure it would be much different from a Jewish family when they first send their children to school. We have a couple of Jewish children at my school, some Muslim, some Hindi… one of the reasons I try NOT to do specific holiday projects that exclude other beliefs. Reindeer sculptures… they don’t HAVE to be Rudolph, ‘stained glass’ shamrocks in March don’t HAVE to be for St. Patrick. I tell people I celebrate secular Christmas with my Christian family, I participate in the Secret Santa at school… but Yule is my religious holiday. Ultimately you can hope she has a teacher who is willing to do a solstice sun instead of a Santa cap… like the Kindergarten teacher at my school last year who had a menorah in the hall for the Jewish boy and had him add a flame each day while the rest of the kids added cotton balls to Santa’s beard.

    1. I’m always grateful to see culturally sensitive teachers. The weird thing will be that many of the teachers my daughter has will be people who personally know me! LOL It’s going to be an interesting time of growth for me… I believe strongly in integrity, so I’ll probably start to come out of the boom closet at work a little more because of it…

  2. In order to have credibility in our small-town culture (times may have changed, this is years ago) we celebrated all cultural holidays publicly as well as our holidays privately.
    However, I have a gease that I must speak the truth and I feel particularly strongly about not lying to children, so I identified Santa as ‘the Spirit of Giving’ right from the start. When my children’s grandparents sent presents labeled ‘from santa’ I presented them as ‘your grandparents honour Santa with this present for you’.
    We did, however, leave cookies (but not milk because I really dislike milk as a drink) and Sharing Spirit left ‘happiness’ (looked remarkably like multi-coloured glitter) on the plate. We would use a little to make a dated ornament with glue and then go outside on the porch with the saucer and fling it into the wind to spread happiness everywhere,
    I never knew how well they understood the circumlocution until a doubting friend asked my then-6-yr-old son:
    Do you believe in Santa?
    Of course!
    Where does he live?
    The North Pole.
    The North Pole where penguins live? (I know that penguins actually live at the South Pole, myself, but my friend didn’t)
    No, of course not! (In a most satisfying tone of ‘doesn’t everybody know this/ how can you be so poorly informed’) At the North Pole where Superman lives….

    1. I love that others think of Santa as a spirit of giving or sharing. I’m glad it worked with your own children. Going about it that way works well with our spiritual practices, I think.

  3. When small, the lad noticed how many charitable things around him were raising money for poor kids at christmas, kids in war zones etc, and it made him deeply uneasy – why was Santa rewarding the kids who had most and ignoring the ones who had least? he was four or five when I debunked it, and greatly relieved to discover there wasn’t a thwacking great magical injustice happening.

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