Inspired by the tumultuous events of 2020, I began creating an annual design that highlights the impact of unseen, mischievous elves on our lives.
This is the original “elf on a shelf,” intended to be cut out and placed at the edge of a shelf, mantel, or picture frame each year.
Each of the posts below includes a link to the printable PDF version. Feel free to download and cut them out to decorate your home.
- Julenisse 2022
Jeg præsenterermin tredje åreligJulenisse! (presenting my third annual Christmas-elf)
Having completed 18 months of Danish lessons, I continue to learn about the havoc these small barn creatures have wrought on Nordic families for hundreds of years.
His digital mischief this time may not impact you directly, but it illustrates the far-reaching effects of tiny, unseen elves that inhabit your house, computer, and cell phone. Whether it’s mismatched socks, a trip to the emergency room, or the failure of your favorite social media platform, we know who is to blame.
If you can, print this page and then take a pair of scissors and cut him out. Fold the tab back and tuck it under a book on your bookshelf or a candlestick on the mantel. He’ll sit with his legs dangling over the edge and no need for tape.
Don’t forget to leave out a bowl of porridge or plate of cookies for the Nisser on Christmas Eve! These tiny evildoers must be appeased every year.
- Julenisse 2021
The onset of the pandemic last year inspired my unorthodox illustration of a Nisse, the mischievous elf of Danish folklore. Families of yore were expected to set out a bowl of porridge to appease these little barn creatures on Christmas Eve. Otherwise, the elves would wreak havoc on the household the following year.
This year, I’m continuing the tradition with a new commentary on current events, featuring our mischievous friend.
Please print out this page, then take a pair of scissors and spend a few minutes cutting out your Julenisse (Christmas elf). Fold the tab back and tuck it under a book on your bookshelf or a candlestick on the mantel. He’ll dangle happily there there, with no need for tape.
A warning to you: Be assured that unseen Nisser inhabit your house, no matter where you live! You can appease these supply chain-disrupting mischief-makers with a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve.
As always, I suspect a small plate of cookies will suffice, and Santa will be happy to share.
- Julenisse 2020
Julenisse: The original “Elf on the Shelf”
In olden times, farmers in Denmark blamed all kinds of misfortune on a mischievous elf who lived in the barn: The Nisse. On Christmas Eve, members of the household were expected to set out a bowl of porridge to appease them. Otherwise, the elves would “up their game,” bringing even more suffering to the household.
Old-fashioned Danish Christmas decorations included paper versions of the Nisse, which are cut out with a tab that can be tucked under a book or other item on a shelf, making them look like they’re dangling or climbing the shelves.
As you can see by the artwork on the front of this card, I’ve made a huge assumption about the dumpster fire of 2020. Last year, since I literally spent Christmas in a van down by the river (it was fun!), I did not set out a bowl of porridge for them. So this year, I plan to appease them with a lovely bowl of risalamande, our beloved Danish rice pudding with cream and almonds.
I hope you’ll grab some scissors, cut out this Julenisse (the word Jule means “Christmas”), fold back the tab, and place him on a shelf. Whether you do or not, be assured that unseen Nisser do inhabit your house! Be sure to appease these pandemic-causing mischief-makers with a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve.
I suspect a small plate of cookies would also suffice, and Santa will be happy to share.