We’ve written about elves several times, including the popular Elf on the Shelf, but our treasures yesterday got me to wondering about the origins of Christmas elves.
There’s no question that elves are part of ancient mythology, especially stories of Germanic and Scandinavian origin. They have both a good and bad reputation, dividing along the lines of gnomes (bad) to elves (good).
Elves were not a part of American Christmas tradition until the Victorian era and a Louisa May Alcott Christmas story (unpublished) in 1950. Harper’s Weekly published a poem, “The Wonders of Santa Claus” that mentioned Santa’s elves in 1857. I’ve included a link to the curious poem, with illustrations. Godey’s Lady’s Book, America’s most popular fashion and women’s magazine of the Victorian period, is credited with popularizing many Christmas traditions, including the Christmas tree and elves. An engraving of Santa with his elves was featured on the cover of their 1873 issue. This photo is of a page from that issue.
I’ve included two additional links from elfcrazy.com. This website is devoted to all things elven, and, while it’s a commercial site selling elf dolls, the information is fun to read and kid-friendly. One link offers clever names for Santa’s elves and suggestions for naming your own elf. Check them out. I’m partial to “Pepper Minstix.” Jeremy has already named our three auction elves–we’ll reveal his most clever idea as we get closer to the Festival of Trees.