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The Christmas Elf

Updated on November 11, 2011

It is believed that the Christmas elf we speak of today comes from the house gnomes of Scandinavia. The story is told that in pagan times everyone had a house gnome to guard his or her home. If they were treated well, these creatures were helpful and kind, but when treated poorly they could be downright evil to those whose homes they guarded. To some they were believed to be nasty, or even worse, they became trolls. Over many centuries of Scandinavian history the claim is that these gnomes were respected and feared, loved and hated, needed and undesirable. Then, in the middle eighteen hundreds, several writers seemed to make over these creatures into sweet, fun loving fairies that have been impish but nonetheless were basically good.

As Christmas became more popular, these creatures first known as gnomes, and then as fairies, became known as helpers to Santa. Early artists provided the public with paintings of these helpers portraying them the way they are envisioned now. Although most people claim that Santa, his wife, the elves and the reindeer live in the North Pole, the Scandinavians believe that they are located in a secret place in Lapland, Finland where large herds of reindeer live. This place is so secret that few know how to get there.

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Elf Names and Jobs

Different cultures believe that there are different numbers of elves. Some think there are thirteen, while others believe there to be nine or six. Each Christmas elf has its own job that they must do. For those who believe the modern version of the story, with only six elves, they are named are Alabaster Snowball, Bushy Evergreen, Pepper Minstix, Shinny Upatree, Sugarplum Mary and Wunorse Openslae. One is responsible for keeping the list of who has been naughty and who has been nice. This is a big responsibility as it determines who receives gifts and who does not.

Another is in charge of helping Mrs. Claus in the kitchen making the sweet treats. One elf's job is to guard the secret location of Santa’s village; making certain that no one finds it. One of the elves is the originator of the machine that makes the toys and still another is Santa’s oldest friend; his confidant. The last one is the designer of Santa’s sleigh and it is his job to care for the sleigh and keep it clean and safe for Santa. He also cares for the reindeers.

In the United States, Britain and Canada, countries that follow similar Christmas traditions, the Christmas elf is seen as a small person wearing green clothes that works in Santa’s workshop making the toys that will be given out on Christmas Eve as Santa flies across the world, dropping down chimneys with gifts for those who have been nice. They are often pictured with pointy ears, rather delicate in appearance, but nimble in their abilities. They are believed to provide children and adults with everything from toys to electronics, all of which will be carefully wrapped, though some people believe that the elves do not wrap them that they only make them. Another story claims that after Christmas is over each elf takes his torch, lights it and leaves Santa’s village to go to a special place where they play in a field no one can find, as they celebrate the end of another successful Christmas.

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