Elves are known to be tiny, dwarf-like creatures, either male or female, with pointed ears. They are youthful but immortal and have magical powers that can control what you see and experience. Their homes are said to be underground, in forests, or in springs and wells, but no one really knows about it because they keep their location a secret! It is also believed that on the 6th of January the elves light up their torches and come down from their secret village in the mountain to play in a hidden field to celebrate the last day of Christmas.
Elves, in general, were known throughout Northern Europe through storytelling, as were other magical creatures such as fairies and pixies. However, Christmas elves were introduced during the 19th century. For example, in 1850, the Christmas issue of "Godey's Lady's Book" featured a picture of a modern Christmas tree on its cover. Widely circulated, Godey became very influential in the birth of Christmas tradition. Again, in 1873, its Christmas issue featured a front cover illustration showing Santa amid toys and elves with the caption, "Here we have an idea of the preparations that are made to supply the young folks with toys at Christmas time." Thus, Santa's elves became a part of the Santa Claus story.
European folklore cast the wee Christmas elf as a crafty, mischievous prankster who were especially vexing during the pre-Christmas period. For example, the German word, "Albtraum" means "nightmare" and also translates to "elf dream". It was believed that by sitting on a dreamer's head, an elf would cause a nightmare. Elves were thought responsible for everything from making milk sour to running off with the evening meal! The people of Scandanavia believed that if they left out a bowl of porridge for the elves, it would discourage them from playing tricks. Christmas elves today serve as a reminder to children to be nice, not naughty.
Some people believe that Santa employs six elves, while others think that he has nine elf assistants. Others think that there are as many as 13 elves living with Santa to help him. Elves are the children of the Trolls, Gryla and Leppaludi, and are very clever. They help Santa to design toys and process requests of children that are sent to them through snail mail or emails. The popular Western names of the Christmas elves helping Santa Claus are:
- Alabaster Snowball (Administrator of the Naughty & Nice list)
- Bushy Evergreen (Inventor of the magic toy-making machine)
- Pepper Minstix (Guardian of the secret of where Father Christmas's village is located)
- Shinny Upatree (The oldest friend of Santa)
- Sugarplum Mary (Head of the Sweat Treats, she is also known as Mary Christmas. She is an assistant to Mrs Claus)
- Wunorse Openslae (Designer of Father Christmas's sleigh and responsible for its maintenance. He also looks after the reindeer)
It is almost certain that we will never know for sure how many elves assist Santa as we will never know for sure their names. If you truly do "Believe," the magic of Christmas will stay in your heart forever and it will matter not that you don't know how many Elves there are or their names, but you will know they are there because you do Believe!
Here are the links to clip art of more Elves.