Aspen Princess: What is the meaning behind Santa Claus, anyway? |

Aspen Princess: What is the meaning behind Santa Claus, anyway?

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

“Santa was my ice skating teacher,” Levi exclaimed, his little voice full of excitement.

“Honey, I think maybe your ice skating teacher was dressed up as Santa,” I peered at him through the rear view mirror to try to gauge his reaction. “Like how you dress up in a costume for Halloween. Santa doesn’t have time to teach ice skating, I don’t think,” I added, trying to solidify my explanation.

Yes, Christmas is another event that has been enriched now that I get to experience it through the eyes of my child. But I still find myself in the midst of some kind of existential crisis. What the hell does it all mean, and more importantly, how will all the hype, the materialism and the straight up lies about Santa impact my little boy?

For a toddler, Levi is pretty damn smart when it comes to being manipulated. Even if my intentions are good, like when I’m trying to discipline him, he manages to see right through it and even turn the tables on me.

For example, when he misbehaves and I threaten to take his favorite toy away he’ll say, “Fine, take it. I don’t want it. Put it away.”

He is already wary of all the Santa hype. When he sees a toy he wants, and I say, “Maybe you can put it on your Christmas list for Santa.” Or when he refuses to go to bed and I say, “He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.”

Levi will stomp his foot and say, “I don’t want anything from Santa.” And then, “Stop singing, Mom.”

There is a part of me that admires this quality in my boy, even if it sucks for me. It’s like trying to train a smart dog; he has a mind of his own and doesn’t just take my word for it. He questions everything and challenges me.

“Yeah, we had a hard time explaining why our daughter’s music teacher was dressed up as Mrs. Claus at the Basalt Christmas Tree lighting,” a friend told me the other day.

Don’t get me wrong: I love sharing the wonder and the magic of Santa with my child, especially since I was a Jewish kid whose parents despised the holidays but gave in because it was too much of a losing battle. To this day, I can’t hear a Christmas carol without hearing my mom’s voice in my head, mocking the song.

When I was 20 and my brother was 13, my parents announced they were done with Christmas. “They’re just saying that,” I told my brother. “They just want to surprise us.”

Turns out, I was wrong. There was no Christmas that year. When I protested, my Dad ran around the house like a crazy person screaming, “It wasn’t the Jews who killed Jesus, it was a bunch of Puerto Rican guys — and they just ran that way!”

I was so traumatized that Christmas was eventually reinstated, but never without a heavy dose of Jewish guilt over Peking duck at a local Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner. To this day, my mom refers to it as “Alimas” and we exchange gifts while my mother rolls her eyes and my dad watches Rachel Maddow on full blast.

Now that I’m the parent, I can understand where my own parents were coming from. What is it that we’re celebrating, exactly? What explanation do I give Levi to explain why he is entitled to so many gifts? What is the meaning behind Santa Claus, anyway? What exactly is to be gained from a fat guy in a red suit flying around in a sleigh spreading materialism? Obviously, there is a significant religious meaning behind the holiday itself, but it’s not our religion.

I can see that my child, with his quickly developing intellect and rebellious streak, is already over the hype. It’s partly our fault for dragging it out so long. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to ride the Polar Express from Durango to the North Pole to see Santa before Thanksgiving.

When Santa boarded the train, Levi was so jacked up I thought his head might explode. Then, in a bizarre turn of events, this particular Santa let us know he was offended by our Grinch pajamas.

“The Grinch?” Durango Santa said, doing nothing to hide his disgust.

We didn’t have time to explain to the guy that it’s a family joke. My father-in-law calls himself the Grinch and gives everyone Grinch gifts every year — stupid stuff like hotel soap, rocks and T-shirts purchased from a truck stop. Truth be told, I kind of love these gifts and still have my Nebraska Cornhuskers T-shirt and wear it to bed all the time. At any rate, Levi picked up on the negative vibes and was visibly chastened. Mean Santa!

I’ve thought about trying to institute some kind of tradition like celebrities do, spending the morning in a soup kitchen or volunteering in some capacity for people in need. I have begun to introduce the idea of giving away a toy for every new toy he gets (also a way to manage his burgeoning play room inventory that is quite literally bursting at the seams), but his maturing intellect stops there. “Mine!” is the predominant rationale.

When Levi wanted something from the obscenely conspicuous pile of toys at the entrance to Whole Foods and I suggested he add it to his list for Santa, he looked at me with an expression beyond his years and said, “Listen, Mom. You have two choices. You can buy this for me right now and that will make me happy.”

There was a part of me that almost gave in. What was stopping me from just giving him the damned guitar shaped like a strawberry on a random Tuesday?

I don’t know who killed Jesus, but I do know Amazon is killing all of us.

The Princess is going to bed. Email your love to


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