While talking about family traditions, my friend started talking about a peculiar custom her family does for Christmas.
Informant: “The angry elf comes on Christmas Eve and, um, he like, he’ll hit you with a soft present. It’s usually pajamas wrapped in newspaper, and like it’ll be when you’re not looking, you’ll get hit behind the head and… one time my cousin Lucas like he saw the elf and he jumped out the window to go find the elf. He like, dive rolled out the window. He opened the window to go catch the elf. He never caught the elf.”
Collector: “But like, obviously someone…”
Informant: “Yeah, as I grew up I figured it was my mom, and my brothers. And we still do it like, well, the elf came! And like, I’ll do it to my parents now. Its fun”
Collector: “Where does your mom come from? Like, does she throw it through the window?”
Informant: “No, she wasn’t actually outside the window but like when my cousin chased after the elf, he was like putting on a whole show, like ‘I think he ran outside the window!’”
“Oh, I see”
Informant: “It was intense”
Collector: “Is this something that just happens within your family, or have you heard of anyone else doing this?”
Informant: “I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this”
Collector: “Do you know how it started?”
Informant: “I don’t. Probably when the three kids were there. It was me and my two brothers. It was all like, all my house. Like everyone just put on this big show. Probably the idea of elves came from the Waldorf School that they went to, because you leave your shoes out, and then on Christmas eve the elves fill your shoes with candy. I think that’s a German tradition.”
Collector: “And you’ve done this ever since you can remember? This angry elf thing?”
It’s interesting to see that different families have different Christmas gift-giving traditions. Some have Santa Claus, others elves, and others have both. It’s also interesting to see how families continue traditions of magical gift-giving beings long after their kids have grown up and no longer seriously believe in these beings, in order to continue a family tradition.