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A department store elf spills behind-the-scenes Santa secrets

Department store elves are Santa’s little helpers, but secret hookups and breaking up fights are all in a day’s work too

Illustration: Lucy Vigrass
By Jaime Lutz |
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What’s it really like being a department store elf? Visiting Santa and his elves to ask for gifts is a Christmas activity as classic as seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, but behind the scenes, things get much more complicated than naughty and nice. So we went straight to the source, asking all our burning questions that weren’t covered in the movie/musical Elf (or David SedarisSantaLand Diaries).

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Do elves hook up?
Yeah, they do; a lot, actually. I know two elves who are getting married next year. And an elf and a Santa who are very serious. I was at this New Year’s Eve party one time, and there were two elves who were hooking up with the same Santa. It was very dramatic.

Do kids ever, er, make a mess on the big guy?
Kids pee on Santa. Some get so hysterical they throw up, which is…fun. Some toddlers smell—they clearly have a full diaper—but their moms don’t care and put them on Santa’s lap anyway. When I’m an elf, my name is Silver Bell, and Santa will say, “Silver Bell, Santa needs a cookie after this.” That’s code that he needs to take a break and clean up.

Do adult visitors hit on you?
People take Christmas as an opportunity to be pretty pervy. The worst was when I was near these two dudes in their twenties, maybe early thirties, and one of them said, “I hope they pay you well,” and I said, “Santa pays me very well in cookies and candy canes.” Then they were like, “I’d let you suck my candy cane.” Ew.

Do fights ever break out in the line to see Santa?
Every damn year. It’s funny, because you’d think with seeing Santa Claus, adults would be on better behavior, but they aren’t. They’ll accuse each other of cutting, or they’ll get mad if they think one kid is getting more attention than the other. One year, a woman told me, “Fuck you!” and I was like, “Merry Christmas!” That’s your only defense. “Merry Christmas!”

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