How Santa's Elves Work

Santa Claus and an elf at a post office in New York. See pictures of Christmas trees.
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Santa Claus gets a lot of attention during the holiday season. He deserves it -- rumor has it that he takes into account your wish list, helps you improve your behavior from naughty to nice and travels around the world in just one night to deliver all of those presents. But how could he do all of this by himself?

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­As it turns out, Santa's not alon­e. According to folklore, working hard behind the scenes and under the big guy's shadow are Santa's elves. Typically underappreciated during the holidays, the amount of labor these tiny, mythical creatures clock in is pretty astounding. We have to assume that much like Rudolph and his red nose, without the help of the elves, Santa would have a lot more stress leading up to Christmas and wouldn't be nearly as jolly.

But have you ever wondered what the life of an elf is really like? Sure, there are a lot of stories and movies about Santa's elves -- they're featured in everything from "Rudo­lph the Red-nosed Reindeer" in 1964 to Will Ferrell's "Elf" in 2004. And although there are some basic similarities between stories, each account offers its own unique take on elf life and customs.

So what do elves look like? Do elves just make toys, or do they have other duties? Do they work just during the months leading up to Christmas Eve, or do they work all year long? Do they get health insurance and vacation time?

Although no one may ever know for sure just how elves operates, we at HowStuffWorks have what we think are the most logical explanations for how they accomplish all that they do. Read the next page to find out about what we think a day in an elf's life might be like.