Elves for hire at St. Jude School, a tradition continues

Published in the Cincinnati Enquirer on December 29, 2018.

At St. Jude School, a K-8 Catholic school on the west-side of Cincinnati, elves have been hard at work for generations. When most people think of Christmas they think of trees and wreaths, snowmen and mistletoes. The first graders at St. Jude think, “elf applications!”

Early each December, first graders at St Jude have the task of creating an application to be part of Santa’s elf crew. They start the tradition by reading the story How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky. Then, the students brainstorm qualities of Santa’s best elves.  Individually, they write a paragraph detailing why they think they would be good for the job of an elf.   Next, students fill out an application which includes their name, birthdate, favorite toy, if they like milk and cookies, and if they have been naughty or nice.  Finally, all students pose for their elf photo and turn themselves into little construction paper elves. Julie Nagel, a first grade teacher, describes the elf making experience as “one of her favorite activities the first graders participate in during the year. While being fun and festive, the project  reinforces paragraph writing skills and taps into the students’ creativity.”

This Christmas tradition has been a student favorite for many years. One St. Jude family has incorporated the elf applications into a family tradition. Emily Timmermann, now a second grader, was so excited about this project because she was going to make the ranks of hanging her precious elf on the designated elf door at home. All of her siblings had already made “elf-hood” and their applications were proudly displayed each holiday season.  Emily explained, “Each year we put up the Christmas decorations and my brothers and sisters always hung their first grade elves. I always wanted one too.” She would watch her brother and sisters hang their picture in anticipation of hanging her own one day. When asked if she felt left out, her reply was “Well, I knew I was going to make one.” Last year was her year to complete the Timmermann family elf collection.

Last year, Emily proudly displayed her elf application for the first time.  This year, when her family began to open up the boxes of Christmas decorations Emily saw her elf once again.  She swelled with pride knowing that her elf would now have its place with the rest of the family’s. Beginning with a class assignment, the elf application continued on as a tradition for this and many other St. Jude families.


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