Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Eve Tradition: A Visit from the New Year's Elf!

One of my favorite traditions of the holidays is the visit from the New Year's Elf! This is a tradition that my maternal grandfather began years ago, and my mother remembered it as a young child.

To receive a visit from the New Year's Elf, you simply place a pair of shoes under the Christmas tree on New Year's Eve (given that your tree is still standing--we leave ours up until January 1st). When you awake, you'll find that your shoes are filled with goodies: money, small treats, lip gloss, an orange, small boxes of sugary cereal---(you know, the ones that we parents rarely let our kids eat), and other trinkets that will fit inside the shoes. Some years he has brought small flashlights, puzzles, stuffed animals, Littlest Pets, gloves, chocolate oranges, and occasionally, if the shoes are in poor condition, he'll even exchange your old pair of shoes for new ones!

The New Year's Elf is not of the same gift-giving caliber as Jolly Old St. Nick....The Elf's gifts are small and more simplistic in nature. Just little tokens to enjoy as we celebrate the ringing in of a new year!

My husband's family does not share this same tradition. In fact, I know of no one outside of my own siblings that participates in anything like this. But my young children are always amazed at the fact that wherever we go for New Year's Eve, the Elf seems to find us, even if the homeowners are non-believers! One year at my in-law's house, their Christmas tree was already taken down, so we placed our shoes underneath a large plant that was in their front room. Lo and behold, not only were my own little family's shoes filled the next morning, but our grandparents' shoes as well!

No one (to my knowledge) is quite sure how this tradition got started, or why. My best guess is that my English grandfather liked the German custom of leaving shoes out on December 5 for St. Nicholas to fill. Somehow, he fixed the date for his own family to be New Year's Eve, and over time, the New Year's Elf was conceived. A common expression my extended family exchanges during the holidays is, "Don't forget to put your shoes out!"

If any of you share a unique or similar tradition in your family, I'd love to hear it!

Best wishes to all for a safe and Happy New Year!


  1. Love it! Eliza's already prepared to put her shoes under the tree! Yeah for family tradition! Thanks for the filler ideas. Darling! Hope you guys had a wonderful Christmas!

  2. what a great idea! I'll have to remember it for next year. I love your blog!!

  3. I found your blog after a search about the New Year's Elf because it is a tradition that my family does also, but I have NEVER heard of anyone else doing it!! That is amazing! Do you know any other history on it?

  4. In Spain and some Latin American countries we leave our shoes under the tree the night of January 5th for the Three kings to leave gifts for the kids in the family. We also leave water and grass to feed their camels. In the past this used to be the main day for gift giving, but now Christmas day has replaced it and on January 6th kids get smaller gifts.

  5. I love our tradition of the New Year's Elf! It's sad to see only two shoes under our tree now that we are empty nesters. I laughed when I saw the shoes under ML's tree. I looks like that elf goes all out filling the shoes to the brim. We went to only ONE shoe per person under the tree many years ago. Our elf was on a tighter budget, I think. :)

    I'm so amazed that Becky? and her family have the same tradition. I'm curious as to how her family started it?


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