Tracing Santa back to Father Christmas, the illustration above is from the early 1900s, depicting Father Christmas as King of the Court.
And going further back, the illustration directly above is from the early 1800s, and is full of ancient symbolism. To quote from the caption:
On a throne with hearts, and flanked by a dejected cupid, a some-what bemused, horned Herne/Pan (Father Christmas) figure looks down at three well-to-do Christian ladies who dole out charity to the grovelling underpriviledged. Herne, in an unsubtle sexual gesture, "stirs his lady's cup" (slang for sex) with his phallic Tyrsus-like rod. This rod is surrounded by little nude figures in poses of abandon emitting from his lady's "spoon" (slang for sexual play), and by fluttering faeries, doing what looks like a witches' row dance with a tiny horned Herne figure (upper right corner). Two prankster jesters drdink and look on dejectedly. In typical Victorian fashion, the illustrator tut-tuts and pretends to disapprove of the sexual, pagan Xmas festivities by showing disapproving, nun-like shadowy figures in the background.
Whew, who knew?