The Krampus Kalendar: E is for ELVES

Thursday 5 December 2019

Santa’s Elves invade the UK each Christmas in increasing numbers, but where does the tradition of the Christmas elf come from?

Elves appear in Germanic, British and Scandinavian folklore, and are often referred as light elves or dark elves. They were often described as tiny, dwarf-like creatures, either male or female, they are said to be immortal, and possess magical powers.

In pagan times, Elves were believed to guard homes against evil. If you were good, the elves would be good to you, but if you were bad, they would play tricks on you. For example, they were believed to give people nightmares by sitting on their heads while they were asleep.

To keep the elves well fed, happy and out of mischief, people left a bowl of porridge on the doorstep at night. The use of the name “elf” in old English reflects the characters’ mischievous nature, and is from the old English ælf. The word was combined to create the words ælfadl “nightmare” and ælfsogoða “hiccup”, afflictions apparently thought to be caused by elves.

Already associated with storytelling and magic, elves began to be associated with Christmas in the mid 1800s, when they became Santa’s helpers. Christmas celebrations were gathering popularity and Scandinavian writers penned the elves’ role as we know it today - good-hearted, fairy-like helpers of Santa Claus that are sometimes mischievous.

Today’s children’s Christmas stories have drawn inspiration from the original folk tales to fashion what we think of as modern Christmas elves. Christmas elves are typically described as diminutive creatures, clad in red and green, with pointy ears and pointy hats. They help Santa bring Christmas to life. They design and make toys and gifts for children, look after the reindeer and keep the sleigh in good condition. They keep Santa’s naughty and nice list in order, and guard the secret location of Santa’s base of operations.

Folklore tells that elves make sudden appearances to families in the run up to Christmas. They keep an eye on children, check who’s naughty and who’s nice and report their findings back to Santa. If you don’t want to wake up on Christmas morning to find your stockings filled with lumps of coal or bundles of twigs – you’d better be good for goodness sake!

'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas, which is full of elves - both good and bad - makes the perfect stocking filler, as will 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.


To find out more about the festive season and its many traditions, order your copy of the Chrismologist's Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts today!

The book is also available in the United States as Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Christmas.



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