Edmond P. DeRousse

History of the Christmas Elf

Top Image

I believe everyone is familiar with the Christmas Elf.  You know the little guys with pointy ears and wearing that conical shaped hat, tights, and curled up shoes. These little guys help Santa Claus with his Christmas tasks. They work in his workshop, tend to his reindeer, check his naughty and nice list, and much more. But just how did they get started in Santa’s employ?

Elves are believed to be immortal, youthful, and magical male or female dwarf-like creatures with pointed ears. Most believe they were a creation of Germanic paganism. They were creatures of light living in the heavens and could control what people see and experience. They have always been storytellers.    

In the mid 1800’s the Scandinavians writers, Thile, Toplius, Rydberg, and others, assigned a new significance for the elves. According to them the elves true intention was to help Father Christmas. This emphasis on the elves helped the Scandinavian Christmas festivals regain popularity and consequently they became recognized as Christmas Elves and not “house gnomes” as they once were. Scandinavian artist like Hansen and Nystrom popularized images of the Christmas Elf engaged in various Christmas activities.       

Today many believe these elves live and work with Santa Claus at his workshop in his village at the North Pole. There is a fallacy, though with that belief. There are no reindeer at the North Pole, an absolute necessity for Santa’s job. However, there are many reindeer in Lapland, Finland. So actually they probably live in that area. Regardless, his workshop is a secret location known only to Santa and his elves. The village is suspected to be somewhere on the Korvatunturi mountain around Lapland, Finland on the Finnish-Russian border.

How many elves does Santa employ? That depends on who is telling the story. Some believe, six, some believe nine, and others believe thirteen. In the movies I’ve seen, that number looks more like dozens. No matter the number, these elves help Santa design toys, process requests, and help determine who actually receives them.

Some of the major elves have been named. You may know them by these are the popular Western names:

1. Alabaster Snowball (Administrator of the Naughty & Nice list).
 2. Bushy Evergreen (Inventor of the magic toy-making machine).
 3. Pepper Minstix (Guardian of the secret of where Father Christmas’s village is located).
 4. Shinny Upatree (The oldest friend of Santa and the cofounder of the secret village in Lapland).
 5. Sugarplum Mary (Head of the Sweat Treats, she is also known as Mary Christmas. She is an assistant to Mrs. Claus and helps her in the kitchen).
 6. Wunorse Openslae (Designer of Father Christmas’s sleigh and responsible for its maintenance. He also looks after the reindeers).

Here is some Christmas trivia:

1.   Mrs. Claus has many 1st names:    Depending on the source, her first name is Mary, Jessica Mary, Maya, Matha, Anywyn, Layla or Goody.

2.   How old is Santa Claus?    His age depends on which folklore you choose to believe. Here is one.  His character is based on St. Nicholas, a Christian saint born in Turkey in 280 A.D. Dutch immigrants bought his story to the United States in the 1700s.    

3.   How many Christmas trees are sold each year?  The National Christmas Tree Association says in 2012 there were about 24.5 million real trees and about 10.9 million fake trees purchased.       

4.   Why does Santa say “HO! HO! HO!”?    It’s an onomatopoeia which means a word that sounds like it means. Santa says it to promote joy, happiness, and laughter.

5.   Did you know President Teddy Roosevelt, an environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House in 1901.    Years later President Calvin Coolidge hosted the first public Christmas tree lighting at the White House.

6.   What are Santa’s favorite cookies?     According to Mrs. Claus, he likes cookies. You can’t go wrong with sugar and gingerbread cookies. But he also likes chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin cookies. 

7.   Where can I learn what Santa is doing right now?   His elves have a website.    http://santaupdate.com/elves/ 

Christmas elves are everywhere today. There is even one on a shelf magically moving from room to room as a reminder to children to be good and not naughty.  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *