How to get my job: Christmas elf

Now that we're officially settled into the holidays, it's time to start looking for folks that have seasonal jobs. What better place to start than a holiday elf? For understandable reasons, our elf has decided to remain anonymous, but regardless of the anonymity, you should still get a pretty good idea of what it takes to become one. It's certainly not the easiest of the holiday jobs, and seems like one that doesn't garner a whole lot of respect.

Westword: Tell us a little about your history as an elf. Holiday elf: I've been doing this every Christmas for about five years to help make extra money for gifts for my husband and son.

WW: Why did you want to start working as an elf and when did you know it was what you wanted to do? HE: I can't say I ever wanted to be an elf, but I did it originally because it seemed like an easy way to make some extra money when I was only working part-time. They've invited me back every year since. It wasn't a childhood ambition or anything like that.

WW: How would you recommend someone get themselves started in the field? HE: Honestly, I just saw an ad in the paper and went in. They did a background check to make sure I wasn't a child molester or anything, but I think half the reason I got the job was because I fit in the costume. So I guess my advice is to not be a creeper and have the same body shape as an elf before you.

WW: What's the best part of your job? HE: As much as it can suck the holiday spirit out of you, it's still nice to be surrounded by people at least pretending to be happy. More often than not, kids and their parents are really grateful for what we do. Sometimes the occasional parent will even tip us if their child has been a pain in the butt.

WW: How about the biggest misconceptions? HE: Ha! I guess most of the job is probably a big misconception. Sometimes I think people see us as failed actors or something. But I've never wanted to act and don't plan on doing it anytime soon. People also sometimes think we're just a bunch of deadbeats that can't find better work, but I and many of my coworkers have day jobs; we just do it for the extra money. Don't get me wrong, I love kids and I love doing what I do most of the time, but holiday stress affects us all in different ways. I just wish people would remember that. And of course kids always assume we're the ones in charge of making the gifts, so sometimes when they're on Santa's lap they'll look over and say things like, "I want this, but make it yellow." I always feel like they'll blame me when they get it in blue or whatever.

WW: Is there a particular work you're most proud of? HE: Well, since it's seasonal I don't really get the opportunity to really hone my craft into anything. I suppose I'm proud of the fact that I've retained my figure long enough to use the same costume for so many years. We also do some charity work; it's not all just sitting around suburbs and charging people for pictures with us. I've visited kids in the hospital with Santa, stopped by shelters, all those types of things.

WW: How about something you're embarrassed of? HE: Well, the costume for starters! But a few years ago I had this family that had like eight kids, and they were just being a pain so I kind of yelled at them to shut up. Thankfully the parents seemed too exhausted to really care. The dad gave me a look, but seemed to understand it wasn't really directed at them. I still feel terrible about it though. As stressful as it is, all I really need to do is show up, smile, take money and point kids over to Santa and wait for a picture.

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