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Christmas Elves

Where did they come from?
Christmas+Elves
Michelle Yeboah

In modern pop-culture, elves are commonly recognized figures, especially during the holiday season. Not everyone is aware of their origins and how, unlike Santa, they don’t have Christian influence involved with them.

Early Beginning:

Elves can be found in Scandinavian, Germanic, and British folklore as creatures of light, beings with magical powers who protect homes from evil or evil pranksters. 

The word “elf” actually comes from the Norse word álfar, who were thought to be history’s first elves. They don’t really have a lot in common with the Christmas elves of today, because they weren’t really defined except from being magical beings from another realm. 

Literary Change:

Elves only started being associated with Christmas in the mid-1800s, with Scandinavian writers painting them as mischievous fairies who helped Santa Claus. 

Louisa May Alcott, famous for Little Women, is somewhat credited with the “Santa’s helpers” legend. Alcott also wrote a story collection called Christmas Elves but it was never published.

“The Wonders of Santa Claus” poem by Harper’s magazine in 1857 gave insight into the elves job, while the “Godey’s Lady Book” magazine front cover popularized the elf look.

Modern Age/Modern Life:

Today, elves are seen as Santa’s helpers who live with him and his reindeer. 

They can be found everywhere from holiday movies to holiday commercials and books, primarily because of the role they play on Christmas.

Their main job may be making toys for all the good kids in the world, but there is much more that they do; 

They are in charge of making sure that the sleigh works properly, organizing the toys onto the sleigh, guarding the location of Santa’s village and workshop, taking care of the reindeer, watching the kid’s behavior and reporting it to Santa, and keeping check of the Naughty and Nice list.

The history of Christmas elves warrants further exploration for a deeper knowledge.

The understanding of elves can enhance the appreciation of the Christmas holiday.

An elf taking care of one of Santa’s reindeers at the North Pole before Christmas. (Michelle Yeboah)

References:

Elfin. (2015, June 26). The origins of the Christmas Elf Tradition. Elf Crazy. https://elfcrazy.com/the-origins-of-the-christmas-elf-tradition/#google_vignette 

What are Christmas Elves?. Twinkl.com. (n.d.). https://www.twinkl.com/teaching-wiki/christmas-elves 

Debczak, M. (2022, December 15). How did elves become part of Christmas?. Mental Floss. https://www.mentalfloss.com/posts/history-of-christmas-elves

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About the Contributor
Michelle Yeboah, a freshman Multimedia major at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, is passionate about learning new things. Through her work, she hopes to gain better skills.
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