Christmas Trivia - Santas Elves

What is the origin of Santa's Elves?

A Christmas elf is a little being that lives with Santa Claus in the North Pole and acts as his helper.

The first known reference to Santa's Elves comes from an 1850 Louisa May Alcott book titled "Christmas Elves," although Santa himself is referred to as a "jolly old elf" in Clement Moore's 1823 poem popularly known as "The Night Before Christmas."

Since then, a cultural consensus has developed that Santa's elves wear green or red, and have pointy ears, long noses, pointy shoes, and pointy hats. They also make the toys in Santa's workshop, take care of the flying reindeer, and report on the behavior of borderline children.

But the question remains why Alcott thought to write about elves, and why Moore associated Santa and elves.

Elves, of course, are an ancient mythology that has not only merged with Christmas mythology, but separately appears in The Lord of the Rings literature and consequently in Dungeons & Dragons culture.

In pagan (pre-Christian) Scandinavia, elves were imagined to be present in all houses and communities, serving as a kind of karmic force, helping the good and working mischief upon those who misbehaved.

Apparently in the 19th century this nordic tradition morphed into the idea that Santa is himself an elf who considers whether children are naughty or nice, and/or that he plays host to subsidiary elves ("subordinate clauses" according to some English teachers) in the more traditional elf form, who have a variety of household roles.

 

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