The Christmas Elf.
It’s no secret that compared with many other Christian countries, the US has commercialized Santa along with Christmas for many years. The past ten years, we’ve managed to commercialize his elves as well. Today in our country Santa comes to each house, gives a lot to some children and only a little to some children, and now his elves are causing mischief is households across America.
In some countries, such as Iceland, The Yule Lads or Yulemen, come to homes and farms across their small island causing problems. For thirteen days before Christmas, these Yule Lads harass sheep, slam doors, steal shoes, steal food, and follow children so they can steal their candy. Each day is basically spent waiting for a Yule Lad to come and steal something from families, houses or farms. In some northern European countries, the Big Guy is escorted by a demon like creature with claws. This demon creature’s sole purpose is to scare the life out of the people who see him. He does this by lashings, beatings and violent punishments.
These two examples are a far cry from the Santa that visits America, right? Our Santa is a jolly happy fellow. Red nose, long beard, winking eye that sparkles if only you could get a glimpse. He’s a man that thrives in the cold, with magical people that are not much taller than an apple and enchanted reindeer that fly around the world. Only he’s not really the same being that drops into each country to deliver gifts. But Norad will track him for hours, and all day long on Christmas Eve, I’ll have to log on and tell my children in which country he’s dropping off gifts so they know just when to go to sleep to ensure he’ll stop here as well.
In our household, we’ve had to explain Santa taxes to our children. It helped them to understand why they may get more or less than other people they know, as well as understand why we have to donate food and toys throughout the year to families that are less fortunate. In our house, Santa is love. He’s responsibility. He’s unconditional. Well…except you’d better be nice, right? At least in the month of December when he sends his little Elf that sits not on a shelf necessarily, but wherever he damn well pleases. Our elf, Freddy, keeps an eye on the kids each day. They talk to him, whisper their wish lists to him, and remind him of their kind duties in hopes he’ll report back to Santa when they are asleep.
We lucked out with our Elf. Unlike the thirteen Yulemen of Iceland, our Elf doesn’t steal. He doesn’t slam doors and cause mischief. He doesn’t hide our shoes or even pee in them. He doesn’t harass our pets. And unlike the Klaws or Krampus of Austria, he doesn’t stalk us and try to kill us as we run from our own fears. Our Elf represents what we love about Santa. He’s kind. He’s simple. He’s giving, as he leaves ornaments or candy canes out for the kids every week. He arrives each year with our countdown to Christmas calendar. He’s fun. The kids try to find him each morning in various hiding places way above our heads. He’s forgiving. He fell one day, and the kids found him in a different, much safer spot later in the day. He’s gentle. He sits all day and does what a Santa elf should do. He observes. He is what our Santa represents for our children. He is everything we try to teach our children. He has morals. He has values. And even in his inanimate state, he’s able to represent them to our family each day for 24 days of the year just by being Freddy our Elf.
What’s he is not is a rule breaking, sloppy, disrespecting, unkind, messy being that I have to prepare for and clean up after. Our elf doesn’t play with other toys in the house. He’s here, in his busiest month of the year to work. It’s that simple. He’s on the clock all the time. He doesn’t party with the alcohol we have in our house. We wouldn’t tolerate our children staging parties with a vodka bottle and their Barbies. He’s not allowed in a hot tub…not even Barbie’s hot tub. He’s not allowed to prepare cookies or fudge in the middle of the night. I don’t even think he’d come up with the idea of trying to crack an egg in my kitchen alone. He’s not tall enough to operate my Kitchen Aid, not even tall enough to fall into it. I’m sure we’d all hear if he tried to get flour out and then fell into an appliance. He’s not allowed to TP anything in my house. He’s not the same elf-like creature that visits in March, who, thanks to a horrible idea at a horrible school, my children now expect a leprechaun to ruin something while they sleep at night. He doesn’t smoke or drink – anything. Ever. He doesn’t get lost in my underwear drawer while searching for something to sniff – what kind of elf would do that? (One of you out there has posted a picture of your naughty elf in a woman’s underwear drawer…think about it.) Freddy, our lovely, responsible, kind and gentle working elf, doesn’t poop out Hershey kisses on my counters. He doesn’t have potty accidents and leave them for us to find. If he can magically get from one spot to another each day without us seeing or hearing him, then if he has an accident, I’m sure he can magically make it go away as well. If he can magically move from his spot where he watches us all day to the North Pole to check in with Santa each night and magically come back before anyone wakes in the morning, then I’m sure if he wanted to bake cookies, he’d just make them magically appear, without the work or mess a little one leaves after baking in a kitchen.
Our Freddy just is. And we love him for it. So I won’t be sharing his journey in our home each year he visits as many do, because I love my boring elf. My kids love him too. Without causing strife, mess, or having to remind my children that no matter who you are, it’s never okay to poop anywhere other than the appropriate places. Without me having to remind him each day, he doesn’t disturb anything in my home, or help himself to food or alcohol, which, may or may not even be legal for an elf. He could be hundreds of years old, and might enjoy a Butterbeer with a shot of something warm after Christmas, but until then, like all working elves in our world, there’s simply no time for celebrating with such recklessness.
I do know a woman who does go above and beyond with her Elf. He leaves Bible verses out where he’s found each morning. He might have an idea for her children to do about giving to others, helping people in need, or a church related project for the children. We won’t be doing that in my house either, but this is the kind of Elf work, I could respect. I love seeing pictures of Elves that are doing creative things all night and then are seemingly stuck all day in the position they were in as soon as the kids wake up. There’s an OCD side of me that would be waiting all day for the kids to ask just how long their little Elf can pose while holding a fishing pole over the toilet while the once swimming Goldfish crackers slowly dissolve.
For those truly naughty elves that are busted drinking alcohol, caught in naked with Barbie positions in the wee hours of the morning, or just simply trashing the house, I can’t help but wonder if the adults in those houses woke to children asleep with a vodka bottle next to them and a few friends, what would they think? Would they just chuckle if the kids TPed the house while everyone else slept? What are these naughty elves teaching children?
And hey, if it’s what your children love…then have fun, turn it up a notch, and enjoy the season no matter how you celebrate.
We have an elf, we have Santa, and we have love. Love the way you celebrate. Love those in your lives, naughty elves and all. Embrace your traditions, whether it be naughty elves or boring hard working elves. Whether it be Winter’s Solstice or celebrating the birth of Jesus. Enjoy your season. And stay warm. There’s a rumor that winter is on its way.
If you’re in America, just be glad, as commercial as Christmas and all the other holidays we celebrate this time of year are, that you are not dealing with door slamming while you sleep or some demon with claws chasing you in real life or in your dreams. I’ll take a Santa on every corner over fearing being alive each December.