One of the things I rarely ever discuss with anyone is children; let alone what they can do during the holidays. When I write blóts, I don’t write specific parts for children. Take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, as my wife and I don’t have children yet. I have, however, spent several Yule nights with children, ranging from 4-17 years of age. These are ideas that I’ve come up with to handle some of these questions in the future and are based on what I’ve seen parents do and what I’ve helped them coordinate for children’s activities. Still, there are a lot of questions about what to tell children about Santa, what things the kids can do, especially for a long night if you are keeping vigil.
Early on, when they are very young, it is probably best to just go with “generic Santa.” They will be too young to grasp the differences anyway and you can save yourself a headache or two with day care or early schooling because they aren’t going to argue with other children that Santa is really Thor or Odin. As they get a little older and understand our faith a bit, you can explain to them that Santa is the way in which Christians vaguely remember Odin and Thor, as Santa is likely a combination of both. It also gives you an out when the “Santa isn’t real” point comes by explaining that the giving of gifts at Yule is part of our customs and is again, something else that was held over. Since they already know that Santa is a mix of Thor and Odin, they can easily grasp that “Santa” isn’t real and will likely have already concluded it themselves. Still, this is an issue that parents have to deal with in the manner that is best for their children.
There are plenty of Yuletide customs that you can draw on to come up with children’s activities. If you are heavily influenced by a particular cultural group, you can look to that for inspiration. As an example of a broader Nordic custom, you can have a boy dress up as a Yule Goat and have him pass out the gifts. If you have multiple boys, let them all dress up as goats and run wild in the yard. Let them know that their joyful cavorting will bring good luck to the family and home. Let them play a little rough, jumping up and down and making all sorts of noise.
Other things that can be done is providing children with a role to play in making offerings or finding ways to involve them in things like lighting the Yule log, if you are doing one. If not, you can always involve them in having a special role in lighting a candle that burns the entire night of the solstice. This is a great place to involve a daughter or daughters. You can combine both of these and light candles with the fire from the Yule log and have the girls carry the fire through the house and around it, bringing good luck to the home (also a good distraction while the boys are burning off all that energy as “goats”). You can even teach the girls a song to sing, if you want to write one, that will make the activity more fun for them. In this way, the girls are acting as representatives of Sunna herself, bringing light to the home and blessing it.
Have the children help decorate the Yule Tree, if you do one. Have them help make a wreath if you do those instead. Heck, do both! Bake cookies and have them hang some treats from the trees for the land wights. You can spend time singing songs and making festive drinks. There are plenty of “Christmas Carols” that are secular or pretty Heathen anyway. The important part is to have quality time with family.
Keep aware of the potential for the only girl or boy present to feel left out if all the other kids have something “special” to do and they don’t. Let’s be honest, most young children couldn’t care less about “boy” things or “girl” things. They just want to be involved. Find ways to make sure all the children are involved; especially the quiet ones who might not want to go gallivanting around like crazed livestock. Most of these activities are pretty traditional roles and they might not be suited for all children. Always remember to find activities suited to who the children are, not who we want them to be. The goal is to bring joy and happiness into the home because it brings good luck. Making a child do something that makes them miserable isn’t going to achieve this goal.