You might be surprised to hear that the whole “elves make toys and Santa delivers them with a sleigh and reindeer” idea hasn’t been happening for a very long time. It has been maintained, however, for marketing reasons because it sounds really good. Originally, it all began with Santa giving a few handcrafted toys to poor children in his village. Soon this included giving presents to all the children in this village. Like any smart business, Santa started small and continually expanded. In order to reach more villages, he brought in the elves to help make toys and the reindeer and sleigh in order to cover more ground. This continued until there was a stalemate. Santa could not feasibly do any more villages in one night unless he came up with a more efficient way to distribute the toys. That’s when the concept still used today was adopted. The movie Arthur’s Christmas was close, but Santa’s operations aren’t that elaborate. Instead, there’s a little more magic involved. In order to achieve global distribution in one night, portals were the answer. It’s not like in Star Trek where anyone or anything is “beamed” anywhere. It’s more like Monster’s Inc. with the doors. Instead of doors, however, the gifts were distributed through Christmas trees, poinsettias, and nativity scenes. Using these three portal options means if people don’t put them out, Santa doesn’t send them gifts. It was never meant to be mean or exclusionary; it was just a rule the North Pole followed in order to simplify things and not upset any parents who didn’t want to participate. Years ago, there was a petition for the menorah to be included, but the Jewish leaders in charge of the agreement refused to accept Dec 25 as the official day to receive gifts because it felt like they were conforming to Christmas. It made sense, but unfortunately Santa had to exclude them because the portal only opens on Christmas Eve.
I should point out that like any good business, Santa had to adapt. For instance, eventually plastic toys took over, which meant the elves making handmade toys came to an abrupt end. Fortunately, the elves weren’t laid off; they were redistributed to have two main types of jobs. This leads to another interesting point: there are two main kinds of elves, the most familiar, cute, and adorably happy kind and elves like Pug – the ugly ones. Pug was given his name because he had a smushy face like a pug. And no, this wasn’t a nickname; this was his actual name. His parents were cheerful, but surprisingly unkind.
Following the idea that there are two kinds of elves, there are also two main kinds of jobs. It’s kind of like at a restaurant where the attractive staff members are out front while the ugly ones are in the back. Of course, in a restaurant when someone is being hired you can’t say, “Yeah, you have the face of someone who should be hidden in the back.” Instead, it’s more like “We need a dishwasher,” or “Those hands look like they’d be good at chopping vegetables and wiping away tears for being so ugly.” The one group of elves were put into positions that involved the public like working in stores and at parades. The other elves got put in the warehouse and used for distribution. Guess which elves got which jobs?
Please know this wasn’t Santa’s fault, and none of the elves were upset with him because it really wasn’t his choice. It’s bad for business when people see an ugly elf and want to throw up, which was always a risk. These elves were ugly – seriously ugggggllyyyy. That’s not said in a judgemental way, but in the way that someone says body odor smells bad. It’s just a fact.
If the ugly elves are responsible for distributing the gifts, you probably realized that Santa doesn’t deliver the presents anymore. His job has actually become busy all year round instead of just one night. Instead of having a workshop of elves making toys he has to oversee everything and coordinate with all the toy and electronics companies for the gifts he needs. How does he afford to outsource like this? That is still a North Pole secret. This story can’t give everything away. What can be said is Santa was a great boss who was jolly but firm. He had very clear expectations and the elves did their best to be obedient because they know it’s for a greater good. Of course, that doesn’t mean the ugly elves never dreamed of something more. They may accept their lot in life, but that doesn’t mean they don’t aspire for more.
The benefit of the elves distributing the gifts is elves can move so fast it’s like time stops for a human watching them work and suddenly the work is done. This means every present gets delivered between the first stroke of midnight to the last like the whole Cinderella at the ball idea. This is a really important rule for the ugly elves to follow because at the last stroke, the portal closes. Out of the entire year, the portal is only open for those twelve seconds. Fortunately, the ugly elves always finished with time to spare… until one night. This story is all about the one Christmas that changed things up bigger than they had been for centuries.
Before we can get into the story there is one last thing that needs to be known. All the (ugly) elves delivering presents were put in pairs. Pug’s partner was Rudy, and he was a stickler for rules. Many elves thought he was a jerk because he loved the rules so much. He didn’t want to be mean, but rules gave him comfort and helped make the world make sense. Part of him also secretly believed that if he followed the rules perfectly and was good enough, he could move up from the ugly elf position to be with the attractive elves. That had never happened, but the ugly elves all needed something to give them hope. Rudy’s motto was “Perfection is what Christmas is about.” Being such a stickler, it was hard to feel Christmas cheer around him, but there was always some because it was Christmas. Pug was very different than Rudy. His mom used to say what he lacked in looks he had double in the warmth of his heart. That sounds great, but having a warm heart can lead to a lot of hurt, especially because it’s hard not to feel others’ pain or take criticism really hard.
One Christmas, Pug and Rudy were all set to do their Christmas distribution tasks, but Pug was feeling emotionally worn out and discouraged. He felt stuck and was simply going through the motions… that is until the last house of the night. The pair should’ve realized something was different right away as they had trouble getting through the portal because there wasn’t much of a Christmas tree. It was more like an indoor plant with some strung up popcorn and a few school-assignment-made paper decorations hanging off of it.
When they were finally able to get the portal open and they were putting out the gifts, Pug heard children crying nearby. Because he’s a sucker for tears, he went to see what was going on. Rudy lost his mind. He was screaming at Pug to get back because they were on their way to a record speed gift distribution night. Fortunately, an elf scream is like a dog whistle except only elves can hear it.
In the next room Pug found a young girl talking to an even younger girl.
“You need to go to bed,” said the older girl. “Santa can’t come if you’re still awake.”
“I don’t care if he comes,” cried the little girl.
“Don’t you want a present?”
“What good is a present when daddy is sick? He won’t even be here for Christmas tomorrow!”
“I know,” whispered the older girl. “Nothing really matters right now, does it? Maybe there’ll be a Christmas miracle for us.” When the older girl said this, it was clear she didn’t believe it, but she was trying to encourage the younger one.
Being so warm-hearted, Pug was particularly heartbroken for these two young girls. He even felt guilty because a few seconds before he was sad about having a mundane life when these girls had real problems. Not sure what to do, he started to walk back towards the portal trying to think about what he could do to help them. Passing a window, his eye happened to be drawn out where there was a for sale sign on the front lawn.
At this point, Rudy was really freaking out! Now it wasn’t about making a record. He was screaming because the clock was about to chime for the twelfth time, which meant the portal would be closed until next Christmas Eve at midnight. If Pug didn’t get back immediately, he would be stuck there until next Christmas, which would create a problem never before seen in the history of Christmas – losing an elf. Pug might be ugly, but he still mattered as much as any elf.
For the first time all night, Pug smiled a big smile and wished Rudy a Merry Christmas while waving to him. Meanwhile, Rudy said something very not merry or Christmas-y just as the portal closed. As Pug let it close, he knew what he was going to do – hence the smile. In a blink of an eye, he completely fixed up the house including repainting it, putting up new trim, and scrubbing it spotless. He figured if this family is selling the house, by fixing it up they’d be able to make a little more money off of it, or, if nothing else, they could feel proud about their home when others walked through it. It was seconds of work for Pug that would’ve been months for a normal human. He even had time to clean up and decorate the outside for Christmas, so others could see what a beautiful home this was.
Pug felt fantastic, better than he ever remembered feeling… but that’s when it hit him. He’d been so focused on helping the girls he forgot one major problem – he didn’t have a way to get home. He was essentially stuck there until the next Christmas Eve. What was he going to do? Should he try to walk to the North Pole? That was a bit far. It’d take him at least a day, and even if he got there, what would happen? He just broke a lot of rules. He could lose his job in the ugly elf department. He could even be banished from the North Pole… What would Santa say?
Pug didn’t know how long he was stuck in his thoughts, but he suddenly heard with his very good elf hearing what sounded like something landing on the roof. He quickly hid behind the couch not sure what was going to happen. Just as he hid, there was a poof. As the sweet smelling, candy cane cloud started to dissipate, Pug could hear a familiar voice nattering on. It was Rudy. This wasn’t a good sign.
“It’s worse than I thought! See Santa. He didn’t just miss the portal, he’s also cleaned up the house and made it look incredible. How could he have done such a terrible thing?”
Pug couldn’t hold himself back. His guilt and fear were too high. “I’m sorry!” Pug bellowed the words to show he realized he did something wrong. He slowly came out from behind the couch and approached them. “I’m sorry for breaking the rules. I just couldn’t help but feel sorry for the family. Their house is for sale and their dad is sick in the hospital. I know I broke rules, but I had to. I needed to do something special for the girls who were in the other room crying.”
“See, that’s the problem. You’re so worried about how it makes you feel rules are ignored. You are just so selfish. Isn’t he Santa?… Santa?”
Santa stood staring at Pug. It seemed like he was thinking. “I remember when I first got into this. It was pretty amazing seeing how I could bring joy to others by doing something kind. Over the years, it became so much I had to put in rules to keep it happening. There was so much going on… it was overwhelming.”
“Yeah, and that’s why we have rules because we need them in order to do bigger things. Rules are very, very important and you sir, ripped them up and tossed them in the wind like they mean nothing.”
“Perhaps… but there is something more important than rules?”
“Really?” Rudy was genuinely intrigued. Rules were all he had known his whole life.
“The most important thing is love,” cheerfully said Santa. Since he arrived, Pug finally felt the courage to look up at him. “Love is more important than rules and I’ve lost sight of that. I’ve been so busy I’ve forgotten why I got into this in the first place. Thank you for reminding me about what is more important. It was also nice having a reason to pull out the old sleigh.”
Just then, the little girl Pug had seen earlier came out and in shock whispered, “Santa?”
“Well, hello little one. I hear you’ve been having a really rough time lately,” said Santa in his jolly but sincere tone. Meanwhile Pug and Rudy scrambled to hide behind him for fear of scaring the girl with their ugliness. “I wanted to personally do something special to encourage you.” Santa started to push Pug out from behind him. “But don’t thank me. Thank my very special elf here. It was his idea, and he even did all the work fixing things up and decorating.”
The little girl just then realized how different the house looked. She was speechless as she gazed around. Seeing her expression was really wonderful for Pug. He may have distributed presents every year for a long time, but he had never actually seen a child open a gift.
Just then, the girl started to cry. When Santa asked her what was wrong she replied, “This is the most beautiful the house has ever been, but we need to sell it since we can’t afford it anymore because Daddy has been so sick.”
The two elves and Santa stood speechless not sure what to do. Rudy was the first to move. He slowly and cautiously moved towards the little girl who continued to cry. Slowly he reached his hand up and placed it on her shoulder. He wasn’t sure what the protocol was because this had never happened before, but he followed his instinct.
As soon as he touched her shoulder, the little girl threw her arms around him hugging him as she cried on his shoulder.
Just then the older girl came rushing in. “Sorry Jen, I was in the bathroom. Are you okay?” And just like her sister, the older girl stopped and stared. “Santa?”
“I hear you’ve been having a house problem.”
“Uh… yeah,” gently responded the girl, “but do you mean the falling apart problem or the ‘we can’t afford the house’ problem and need to sell it?”
“Thanks to my elf here, the first problem has been addressed.”
The older girl was surprised by his words, but then as she started to scan the room, she realized it wasn’t how it was before. It was… perfect. “How did…? Wow…”
“And I think that maybe I should be following the example of my two elves here who have shown wonderful kindness. I may not be able to fix your dad, but I can make your situation a little better.” With that Santa reached into his bag and pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to the older girl. “Give this to your parents, and that should solve the second problem.” Santa then snapped his fingers and the for sale sign outside disappeared.
“I don’t understand,” said the older girl.
“Have you seen the black and white Miracle on 34th Street movie?”
“Yeah?” replied a confused young girl.
“This ending is a lot like that, but instead of a new house, you get to stay exactly where you are.” The older girl once again just stared in amazement. “Starting this year, I’m now doing what I call a Christmas miracle moment. Every year one family will be chosen to be given something extra special, and thanks to these two elves, you were chosen this year.” Pug and Rudy looked at each other as Santa whispered to them, “You’re being reassigned.” Turning back to the girls, Santa continued, “So if there’s anyone you should thank for this, please thank them.” The older girl continued to stare. Santa leaned over and whispered, “This would be a good time to say thank you to the two elves.”
As quickly as the older girl had become speechless before, she quickly snapped out of her trance and grabbed the two elves and started to hug them. After a brief moment, the younger sister joined in the hug as she asked, “What’s going on?”
Her older sister while grasping tightly to the two elves sweetly said, “We have our lives back.”
After a few minutes of being in the embrace, a faint whimper could be heard coming from the group hugging. The older sister started to let go as she asked, “I’m sorry, am I hurting you?”
“No…” whispered Rudy as he started to hug everyone back. “I never knew what love and acceptance felt like before. It’s… it’s… beautiful.”
After a few minutes of letting the elves and the girls hug, Santa announced, “Sadly, it is time for us to go. There’s still a lot for us to do tonight.”
As the elves said goodbye and walked towards Santa, the little girl quickly grabbed them both and gave one last squeeze as she said “Thank you for making my sister happy… I’ve missed that.” And as she let go, Santa and the two elves disappeared up the chimney leaving the two girls a chance to really look around at how wonderful their house now looked.
And from the roof, sleighbells could be heard as Santa cheered, “Merry Christmas to all, and may your lives be full of love this year!”
Rev Chad David.ca, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)