When you’re a small child, you accept most of the details of the Santa Claus narrative. And why wouldn’t you? As long as you can avoid landing your name on the naughty list, come December 25th, you’ll find presents under the tree. It’s a sweet deal if ever there was one.
But if your kid starts to ask questions about the people behind the scenes who helped them get the toys they so desperately wanted, you might want to be prepared with an answer. Who are Santa’s magical elves, really, and how old are they?
Elves first pop up in ancient Norse mythology. In both Scandinavian and Celtic culture, there are many myths of elves, fairies, and natural spirts, which eventually came to be known as the “hidden people.”
But it wasn’t until the publication of American poet Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1823 — which is now widely known as “The Night Before Christmas” — that elves became a prominent part of the Santa Claus myth. In the poem, Mr. C is referred to as a “jolly old elf,” a line that inspired other authors to take some liberties with the idea of elves toiling away in a workshop. A scene like this was depicted by Norman Rockwell in a 1922 painting.
So how old are elves, exactly? Well, sometimes they are depicted as children, as seen in plenty of Santa Clause movies. Sometimes they are super short, with pointy beards, and other times they just look like regular people assembling toys. But if Santa is 1,750 years-old, it stands to reason that the elves working for him might be just as old, if not older.
Of course, this raises so many questions. What is the average lifespan of an elf? Are they working well into their golden years because they have to, or because they want to? Do they have a 401k or other retirement benefits? And is it even legal for someone who is centuries old to still be employed? One would hope that the elves who are working away in the North Pole are equally as jolly as Kris Kringle, and are happy to be toiling away, bringing joy to children everywhere.
Ultimately, the answer to the question “how old are Santa’s elves?” is one that doesn’t really need an answer. Maybe it’s more important to appreciate the fact that elves who have lived for a millennium still find meaning in their work, purpose in their lives, and joy in honing their toy-making skills. And since there doesn’t seem to be too much elfish turnover, that would mean that Santa Claus is probably the coolest employer in all of the North Pole.