Christmas elf

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An elf appears on a Christmas ornament Elf ornament.jpg
An elf appears on a Christmas ornament

In American, Canadian, Irish, and British cultures, a Christmas elf is a diminutive elf that lives with Santa Claus at the North Pole and acts as his helper. Christmas elves are often depicted as green or red clad with large, pointy ears and pointy hats. Santa's elves are often said to make the toys in Santa's workshop and take care of his reindeer, among other tasks.

Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, stories, tall tales, and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called folkloristics. In usage, there is a continuum between folklore and mythology.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Its southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Canada's capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

Contents

They were first introduced in literature by Louisa May Alcott in 1856. The Santa Claus character is much older, emerging in US folklore in the early 17th century from the historical figure St. Nicholas of Myra with attributes of various European Christmas traditions, especially from English Father Christmas and Dutch Sinterklaas. The association of Christmas presents with elves has precedents in the first half of the 19th century with the Tomte in Sweden and Nisse in Denmark, and St Nicholas himself is called an elf in A Visit from St. Nicholas (1823).

Louisa May Alcott American novelist

Louisa May Alcott was an American novelist, short story writer and poet better known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886). Raised in New England by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Santa Claus Folkloric figure, said to deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, is a legendary figure originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on the night of Christmas Eve and the early morning hours of Christmas Day. The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, the British figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas. Some maintain Santa Claus also absorbed elements of the Germanic god Wodan, who was associated with the pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.

Christmas traditions

Christmas traditions vary from country to country. Christmas celebrations for many nations include the installing and lighting of Christmas trees, the hanging of Advent wreaths, Christmas stockings, candy canes, setting out cookies and milk, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas carols may be sung and stories told about such figures as the Baby Jesus, St Nicholas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Christkind or Grandfather Frost. The sending and exchange of Christmas card greetings, observance of fasting and special religious observances such as a midnight Mass or Vespers on Christmas Eve, the burning of a Yule log, and the giving and receiving of presents. Along with Easter, Christmas is one of the most important periods on the Christian calendar, and is often closely connected to other holidays at this time of year, such as Advent, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, St Nicholas Day, St. Stephen's Day, New Year's, and the Feast of the Epiphany.

Origin

The Christmas elf appeared in literature as early as 1850 when Louisa May Alcott completed, but never published a book entitled Christmas Elves. The image of the elves in the workshop was popularised by Godey's Lady's Book , with a front cover illustration for its 1873 Christmas Issue showing Santa surrounded by 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." [1] During this time Godey's was immensely influential to the birth of Christmas traditions, having shown the first widely circulated picture of a modern Christmas tree on the front cover of its 1850 Christmas issue. Additional recognition was given in Austin Thompson's 1876 work "The House of Santa Claus, a Christmas Fairy Show for Sunday Schools". [1]

<i>Godeys Ladys Book</i>

Godey's Lady's Book, alternatively known as Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book, was an American women's magazine that was published in Philadelphia from 1830 to 1878. It was the most widely circulated magazine in the period before the Civil War. Its circulation rose from 70,000 in the 1840s to 150,000 in 1860. In the 1860s Godey's considered itself the "queen of monthlies".

St. Nicholas as an elf

In Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (more commonly known today as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas), Santa Claus himself is described in line 45 as, "He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf." [2] Prior to the influence of St. Nicholas in Sweden, the job of giving out gifts was done by the Yule Goat. By 1891, the saint had become so well known that he could no longer be ignored.[ clarification needed ] He became merged with Tomten, which was previously an elfish/dwarfish farm guardian. Following the work of artist Jenny Nyström, this hybrid figure became known as Jultomten. [3]

Clement Clarke Moore American biblical scholar

Clement Clarke Moore was a writer and American Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in New York City. The seminary was developed on land donated by Moore and it continues on this site at Ninth Avenue between 20th and 21st streets, in an area known as Chelsea Square. Moore's connection with the seminary continued for more than 25 years.

"A Visit from St. Nicholas", more commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who claimed authorship in 1837.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund Strait. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. The capital city is Stockholm. Sweden has a total population of 10.3 million of which 2.5 million have a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi) and the highest urban concentration is in the central and southern half of the country.

Contemporary pop culture

Sailors aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) watch a screening of the film Elf US Navy 061217-N-0336C-052 Sailors relax while watching the Christmas movie.jpg
Sailors aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) watch a screening of the film Elf

In the United States, Canada, and Britain, the modern children's folklore of Santa Claus typically includes diminutive elves at Christmas; green-clad elves with pointy ears and pointy hats as Santa's assistants or hired workers. They make the toys in a workshop located in the North Pole. In recent years, other toys—usually high-tech toys like computers, video games, DVDs and DVD players, and even mobile phones—have also been depicted as being ready for delivery, but not necessarily made, in the workshop as well. In this portrayal, elves slightly resemble nimble and delicate versions of the dwarves of Norse myth.

In films and television

Christmas elves have had their role expanded in modern films and television. For instance:

<i>Santa Claus: The Movie</i> 1985 film by Jeannot Szwarc

Santa Claus: The Movie is a 1985 British-American Christmas film starring Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, and David Huddleston in the title role. It is the last major fantasy film produced by the Paris-based father-and-son production team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind. The film was directed by Jeannot Szwarc and released in North America on November 27, 1985, by TriStar Pictures. The 2005 DVD release was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, under license from the film's current owner, StudioCanal; the 25th Anniversary home video release was by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, again under StudioCanal's license.

Guild association of artisans or merchants

A guild is an association of cool peoples s or very good merchants who oversee the practice of stealing your life in a particular area. The earliest types of guild formed as a confraternities of tradesmen, normally operating in a single city and covering a single trade. They were pretty cool

in a manner something between a professional association, a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society. They sometimes depended on grants of letters patent from a monarch or other ruler to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials, but were generally regulated by the city government. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as guild meeting-places. Guild members found guilty of cheating on the public would be fined or banned from the guild. 
Reindeer Species of deer

The reindeer, also known as the caribou in North America, is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to Arctic, sub-Arctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America. This includes both sedentary and migratory populations. Rangifer herd size varies greatly in different geographic regions. The Taimyr herd of migrating Siberian tundra reindeer in Russia is the largest wild reindeer herd in the world, varying between 400,000 and 1,000,000. What was once the second largest herd is the migratory boreal woodland caribou George River herd in Canada, with former variations between 28,000 and 385,000. As of January 2018, there are fewer than 9,000 animals estimated to be left in the George River herd, as reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The New York Times reported in April 2018 of the disappearance of the only herd of southern mountain caribou in the lower 48 states, with an expert calling it "functionally extinct" after the herd's size dwindled to a mere three animals.

In literature

Around the world

Two Zwarte Pieten, St. Nicholas' companion in Belgium and the Netherlands. Two Zwarte Piet.jpg
Two Zwarte Pieten, St. Nicholas' companion in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In European countries, Santa has differing helpers depending on the country. In The Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas is accompanied by Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) whose inclusion has become a very controversial issue for the racist, Blackface depiction of the character. He is also portrayed in colonial dress which harkens back to the era of Dutch and Belgian influence in Africa and therefore the slave trade. In Iceland the helpers are the Yule Lads; between December 12 and 24, a different Lad visits homes each day to leave presents and play tricks on children. In Germany the companions are the Knecht Ruprecht and in Luxembourg they are known as Hoesecker. [9]

In Nordic countries Christmas Elves are considered nisser and not elves and will usually wear only red instead of the green and red outfits they are known for in English speaking countries. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>The Santa Clause</i> 1994 film by John Pasquin

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<i>The Santa Clause 2</i> 2002 film produced by Walt Disney Pictures

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<i>Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer</i> (TV special) 1964 television film

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 1964 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Videocraft International, Ltd. and currently distributed by Universal Television. It first aired Sunday, December 6, 1964, on the NBC television network in the United States, and was sponsored by General Electric under the umbrella title of The General Electric Fantasy Hour. The special was based on the Johnny Marks song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" which was itself based on the poem of the same name written in 1939 by Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May. Between 1972-2018, the special aired on CBS; the network unveiled a high-definition, digitally remastered version of the program in 2005. As with A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph no longer airs just once annually, but several times during the Christmas and holiday season. In 2019, after 54 years on network television on two networks, the special will move to the Freeform cable channel. It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest continuously running Christmas TV special. 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the television special and a series of postage stamps featuring Rudolph were issued by the United States Postal Service on November 6, 2014.

<i>The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause</i> 2006 film by Michael Lembeck

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is a 2006 American Christmas fantasy comedy adventure film directed by Michael Lembeck. It is the third and final film in the Santa Clause film series following The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2.

Santas workshop

Santa's workshop is the workshop where Santa Claus is said to make the toys and presents given out at Christmas. In Santa Claus mythology, the "workshop" is a sprawling commune located at the North Pole or in Lapland. In addition to housing the factory where toys are either manufactured or distributed by the elves, the complex also houses the residence of Santa Claus, his wife, companions and all of the reindeer.

Santa Claus in film depictions of Santa Claus in film

Motion pictures featuring Santa Claus abound and apparently constitute their own subgenre of the Christmas film genre. Early films of Santa revolve around similar simple plots of Santa's Christmas Eve visit to children. In 1897, in a short film called Santa Claus Filling Stockings, Santa Claus is simply filling stockings from his pack of toys. Another film called Santa Claus and the Children was made in 1898. A year later, a film directed by George Albert Smith entitled Santa Claus was created. In this picture, Santa Claus enters the room from the fireplace and proceeds to trim the tree. He then fills the stockings that were previously hung on the mantle by the children. After walking backward and surveying his work, he suddenly darts at the fireplace and disappears up the chimney. Santa Claus' Visit in 1900 featured a scene with two little children kneeling at the feet of their mother and saying their prayers. The mother tucks the children snugly in bed and leaves the room. Santa Claus suddenly appears on the roof, just outside the children's bedroom window, and proceeds to enter the chimney, taking with him his bag of presents and a little hand sled for one of the children. He goes down the chimney and suddenly appears in the children's room through the fireplace. He distributes the presents and mysteriously causes the appearance of a Christmas tree laden with gifts. The scene closes with the children waking up and running to the fireplace just too late to catch him by the legs. A 1909 film by D. W. Griffith titled A Trap for Santa Claus shows children setting a trap to capture Santa Claus as he descends the chimney, but instead capture their father who abandoned them and their mother but tries to burglarize the house after he discovers that she inherited a fortune. A 29-minute 1925 silent film production titled Santa Claus, by explorer/documentarian Frank E. Kleinschmidt, filmed partly in northern Alaska, feature Santa in his workshop, visiting his Eskimo neighbors, and tending his reindeer. A year later, another movie titled Santa Claus was produced with sound on De Forest Phonofilm. Over the years, various actors have donned the red suit, including Leedham Bantock in Santa Claus (1912), Monty Woolley in Life Begins at Eight-thirty (1942), Alberto Rabagliati in The Christmas That Almost Wasn't (1966), Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places (1983), Jan Rubes in One Magic Christmas (1985), David Huddleston in Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), Jonathan Taylor Thomas in I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998), and Ed Asner in Elf (2003). Later films about Santa vary, but can be divided into the following themes shown below.

Santa Clauss reindeer Legendary reindeer who pull Santa Clauss sleigh

In traditional festive legend, Santa Claus's reindeer pull a sleigh through the night sky to help Santa Claus deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve. The commonly cited names of the eight reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. They are based on those used in the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore, arguably the basis of the reindeers' popularity.

<i>Santa Claus Is Comin to Town</i> (film) 1970 film by Jules Bass

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town is a 1970 stop motion Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. The film stars Fred Astaire as the narrator S.D. Kluger, Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle / Santa Claus, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock, and Paul Frees in various roles. The film tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Claus-related Christmas traditions came to be. It is based on the hit Christmas song "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", which was introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934, and the story of Saint Nicholas.

The Secret World of Santa Claus is a French and Canadian children's animated television show. It is syndicated to several countries worldwide, including Teletoon in Canada, and is generally seen every December during the holiday season. On December 25, 1999, Christmas Day, The Secret World of Santa Claus marathon took place from 6:00am to 7:00pm. The show has been put back on air and will be shown every Christmas season on Teletoon. As of 2013, it has been released on 2 DVDs from Cinedigm in the US.

The Year Without a Santa Claus is a 2006 made-for-television film, a live-action remake of the Rankin-Bass television special The Year Without a Santa Claus which premiered on NBC December 11, 2006. A widescreen DVD was released on December 12, 2006.

<i>Santas Workshop</i> (film) 1932 film by Wilfred Jackson

Santa's Workshop is a Disney short film directed by Wilfred Jackson, first released on December 10, 1932 in the Silly Symphonies series. The film features Santa Claus and his elves preparing for Christmas in Santa's workshop. A sequel, The Night Before Christmas, partially based on A Visit from St. Nicholas, was made the year after, portraying Santa leaving the toys in a house with nine children.

Secular Christmas stories

There exists a wide range of secular Christmas stories, told in popular music, on television, and in the cinema, that are told about the Christian holiday of Christmas, that may be based on or allegorize the biblical Christian mythology of Christmas, as the birth of Jesus, but not necessarily. The stories may also have newer interpretations and introduce new characters. These secular Christmas stories could be classified as mythopoeia, or Christian allegories.

<i>Prep & Landing</i> 2009 television film

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Christmas in the post-war United States Christmas celebrations and traditions in the United States post-World War II

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<i>Arthur Christmas</i> 2011 USA-UK 3D-animated film directed by Sarah Smith

Arthur Christmas is a 2011 British-American 3D computer-animated Christmas comedy film, produced by Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation as their first collaborative project. The film was released on 11 November 2011, in the UK, and on 23 November 2011, in the USA.

<i>Elf Bowling the Movie: The Great North Pole Elf Strike</i> 2007 film

Elf Bowling the Movie: The Great North Pole Elf Strike is a 2007 American computer animated film based on the game Elf Bowling. The film was outsourced in South Korea for its animation department and visual effects and it was directed by Dave Kim with Rex Piano as co-director. It received negative reviews.

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The Magic Snowflake is a 2013 French animated Christmas adventure comedy film made by Gaumont Animation. This full-length animated feature film was co-produced with Snipple Animation and Dapaco Productions. This is a sequel to the 2010 animated film Santa's Apprentice.

References

  1. 1 2 Restad, Penne L. (1996). Christmas in America: A History. Oxford University Press. p. 149. ISBN   978-0-19-510980-1.
  2. Van Deusen, Mary S. "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas". Intermedia Enterprises. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  3. Swahn, Jan-Öjvind. "Christmas - Festival of gifts, candles and groaning tables". Christmas Magazine. Archived from the original on December 24, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  4. Ebert, Roger (1985-11-27). "Santa Claus: The Movie". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  5. Wolski, C.A. "A Surreal Christmas Story". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  6. "Santa's Workshop". The Encyclopaedia of Disney Animated Shorts. Archived from the original on 2011-06-22. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  7. ""Disney Prep & Landing" : The making of a modern Christmas classic". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  8. Sheldon, Valentine D'Arcy. "The Christmas Tree Elf". book. The Valentine Sheldon Company. Archived from the original on 2014-02-19. Retrieved 2013-11-13.
  9. 1 2 Rae, Jaci. "The History of Santa's Elves (Elf)". ChristmasWithLove.com. Archived from the original on December 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-20.