I have worked as an elf at Santa Experiences in Ireland for five years. You know where families go to meet Santa but before hand there’s elves and Christmas characters and play areas and a bit of entertainment. I probably should have given up a long time ago. I’m feeling a little old now but I’m a 20 year-old who is 5’3 and looks about 12. Plus why would you leave a job where you basically get to spread Christmas cheer? If you watch Elf every Christmas and it fills you with joy, then you’d probably love life as an elf. However. if you thought the movie was stupid and you don’t start getting excited for Christmas on November 1st then this job isn’t for you.
What qualities do you have to have to be an elf? Be cheerful, friendly, able to chat with people, like kids and love Christmas. Also it’s a bonus if hearing a Christmas CD played on a loop for 8 hours a day doesn’t make you want to stuff your ears with cotton wool. There’s no height restrictions or anything like that where I work, if you’re a pleasant person with a love for Christmas you’re welcome. One year I saw a tall ginger lad dressed all in black with chains hanging off his jeans at an elf meeting. You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover because he was really good with kids and without the chains he made a pretty plausible elf.
The only downsides to the job are the awkward families and the cold weather. Sometimes the kids will know you’re not a real elf or be incredibly shy, and that’s okay, you just make small talk with their parents. But when the entire family doesn’t want to talk to you it can be quite awkward – especially because you’re trying to play the role of a cheerful elf, not creepy inquisitive girl, which situations like this can make you feel like.
The cold on the other hand can be quite bad. One word: layers. One year I wore my dad’s skiing gloves and two thermal vests. You can be outside a lot and temperatures are often below freezing. All the excitement and happiness and Christmas music and smell of mince pies and eggnog makes up for it; I can’t properly describe the level of excitement, you can just feel it in the air. Every family is equally excited as the rest so it never gets boring. But you can’t let your guard down – even if you’re freezing and wrecked tired, each family are having a brand new experience and just because their turn for Santa is at 7pm, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get an elf that wasn’t as chirpy as she was at 9am.
A day in the life of an elf? I have breakfast, go to work, paint on my red rosy cheeks, put on my elf costume and go out to spread some Christmas cheer. Too often I’ve forgotten to wipe the red paint off my cheeks at the end of the day and walked into the shop like that on the way home. Also for a few hours after I leave work, even though I look like a normal girl and not an elf anymore, I keep expecting little kids to wave at me. Being an elf and having little kids hug you and wave to you and chat excitedly about what they want for Christmas, is so special, I love it. But then again, we elves see kids at their best. When they’re just about to see Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas is when kids are on their ultimate best behaviour. I am aware I’m not seeing all the fights, tantrums and crying.
Speaking of tantrums, you can’t help but laugh when about seven adults (parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles) come in with just one tiny two year old to see Santa for the first time and he’s absolutely terrified. He’s there screaming his head off and all the grown ups are trying to assure him that Santa’s a lovely man but he’s having none of it. My mum told me I had a similar experience when I was a baby. There was a man in my hometown that would go around to various shops and restaurants dressed up as Santa. He was a friend of theirs and one day she invited him to come over dressed up, for my first experience meeting Santa. I roared my head off and he had to leave. I still so bad about it, that poor man thought he was doing something nice and got kicked out. But at least now I know it comes with the territory.
Cutest elf moment? When I see young couples bring their newborn babies to get their picture taken with Santa. They’re so excited and the baby is adorable and it’s the one time you can talk to a family normally. Also when kids tell me what they’re getting for Christmas. With the youngest person in my extended family being 17, I have none of that excitement and talk about toys in my own life so it’s nice to learn about new toys from these kids. I’ve been doing this for five years and I’ve noticed kids are looking for less toys and more technology. I could have cried when a tiny blonde girl told me she just wanted colours.
I’m going to let you in on an elf secret; we love Christmas because it brings us back to being a kid. While other people our age are planning what makeup they’ll get for Christmas and what nights they’ll go out, we’re playing dress up. It’s so exciting to be given permission to be excited for Christmas and Santa and talk about Rudolf and the possibility of snow every day until Christmas again, just like you did when you were seven.
Article by: Sarah Talty
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