How Santa's Elves Work

Elf Duties

Seventeenth-century scholar Rev. Robert Kirk wrote extensively on elves, as well as fauns and fairies.
Seventeenth-century scholar Rev. Robert Kirk wrote extensively on elves, as well as fauns and fairies.

Although elves might have a natural drive for crafting everything from wooden rocking horses to Xbox 360s, we assume that they would still have to attend elf school.

Elves would need to learn several basic subjects in order to function correctly in the workshop, and curriculum would include courses such as Woodworking 101, Computer Science and Technology, Locomotives (Large and Miniature) 101 and Advanced Return Policies. Once an elf graduated with enough elf school credits, he or she could probably gain clearance to perform a wide variety of duties in Santa's workshop.

Technology is always changing, though, and Santa's elves would need to know everything from traditional toy-making to the most current and up-to-date computer games. That's why elves would need to continue taking classes even after they graduated -- once the newest version of the iPod comes out; for instance, the elves would need to know the ins and outs well before Santa headed out on Christmas Eve.

The reindeer would also need to be taken care of. The most logical explanation is that elves would be in charge of training and feeding the reindeer, as well as keeping the stables clean. And once Santa was ready to go, Rudolph and company would have to be in top form. We'd like to imagine that Rudolph might even have a rider that ensures that his nose is polished daily and red and green M&Ms are widely available throughout the reindeer compound.

This would, of course, lead to a minor rivalry with the reindeer. Since elves are small they wouldn't have too many chances to see things from a higher point of view -- the North Pole and the surrounding Arctic terrain are fairly level, in fact. So since the reindeer could have the ability to fly and get to guide Santa's sleigh all around the world, the elves might be a little jealous. They would rarely get to fly with Santa on Christmas Eve -- they'd be quite busy monitoring Santa's flight path back at the North Pole.

With all the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas, would Santa's elves ever get a break? Once Christmas is over, there would still be a few more days of work -- Santa couldn't be perfect and might mix presents up, so the elves would take care of refunds, returns and exchanges. By New Year's Day, the elves might be ready for a break, though, and they'd head out on a much-deserved vacation. Their ideal destination? Perhaps Scandinavia -- although it's very cold there during late winter, it's warmer than the North Pole. Elves might even enjoy staying in ecolodges and taking a dip in the many geothermal hot springs. Much of elf folklore originates from Scandinavian countries, too, so it makes sense that they would want to visit their homeland.

We'd like to think that elves also get health insurance -- after all, expending a lot of energy might lead to some clumsy scrapes and scratches. But health care is expensive. Could it be that they visit an undisclosed Canadian health insurance agency?

To learn more about Santa's elves and everything Christmas, visit the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Swartz, B.K."The origin of American Christmas myth and custom."
  • Welle, Deutsche. "Iceland: searching for elves and hidden people." Aug. 28, 2007.,2144,2786922,00.html