Editor’s note- I asked our 11 year-old granddaughter and budding author Elinor to write a Christmas story for the Southern Utah News. This is her story! Ellie is the daughter of Caitlin and Jeremy Brunner of Salt Lake, and granddaughter of Kerry Bush, and Dixie and Dennis Brunner. Thanks Ellie!


Nicky grabbed her hammer and ran out of her house to the workshop. All of the elves in the North Pole were hurrying to make toys in the giant building in the middle of town.

It was the day before Christmas Eve, so everybody was trying to finish work. Plus, tomorrow Santa would be announcing the winner of the annual Hard Work contest, so all the elves were rushing to get some extra work done in hopes they might get chosen.

Nicky headed to the room she’d been assigned for the day, donned some welding goggles, and got to work. She hammered wood planks together, sewed and stuffed teddy bears, and checked to make sure all the orders they had made online were delivered or would be tomorrow. She supervised the melting of candy to make candy canes, and put each lump of coal in a little black bag. Finally, she wrapped the last box, tied a neat ribbon, and put it on the pile. The work for the day was done.

All of the elves left the workshop, leaving the giant stacks of presents wrapped in red, green, and gold behind them. Soon, Nicky was home. She set down her hammer on her bedside table and fell asleep immediately.

The next day, Nicky got dressed, picked up her hammer as a good luck charm, and left her house. Today, the elves wouldn’t work. All the preparations for Christmas were over. All that was left was the judging of the contest.

Santa stood at the podium, waving and grinning at all the cheering elves. “Ho ho ho!” he called. “Merry Christmas!”

The elves clapped wildly. Santa called for silence.

“Ahem,” he said. Santa looked jolly as always: his red cheeks bulged like a chipmunk’s, his black eyes twinkled merrily, and his formidable belly quivered like a bowl of Jell-O. He had a giant white beard, and he wore a red suit with white trim, a black belt, black boots, and a red hat with a white pom-pom on it.

“Today is a very special day,” he said. “Everyone knows why. Today is Christmas Eve. And today, one very special elf will be selected to be my helper in my sleigh today.”

Nicky held her breath and clutched her hammer. (A quick note on hammers: in elf culture, hammers are prized. Some elves even name theirs.) Could it be her? This was the highest honor for an elf. Every elf worked their hardest to make it. If Nicky just could make it...

“Without further ado,” declared Santa, “the winner of this year’s Hard Work contest is ... Nicole Brandaughter!”

The crowd parted for Nicky. She stared, awestruck, then shook her head and started walking. Finally, she reached Santa. She bowed her head and whispered, “Sir, it’s … it’s an honor.”

He smiled down at her. “Of course, my dear.” Then he raised his head and boomed, “Nicole Brandaughter has worked hard all year. She has never tired of making toys for all the children, and she has remembered to keep the Christmas spirit in mind always. We recognize her gladly for all her determination and persistence to make this Christmas better than the last. We thank her and know she is worthy of this honor. Hail Nicole Brandaughter!”

The crowd cheered. Nicky wasn’t sure what to think. She had done it. She was traveling with Santa Claus! She would be riding in his sleigh, every elf’s dream!

Santa sent her home. She told her dad, Bran, about what had happened. He was proud of her and got her ready. Then they both left and started loading the presents into the sleigh. Finally, when Santa’s sack was full, Santa climbed in. Nicky tentatively followed. Santa grinned at her again and turned to her reindeer.  

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! And glow, Rudolph!”

The reindeer soared into the sky, Rudolph’s glowing red nose lighting the way. Nicky gripped the edge of her seat and gazed below, amazed by the view of snow lit by the moon and the tiny buildings getting tinier by the second. If she squinted, she could just make out the specks that must have been the elves, waving and staring at them.

They rode in silence for a while. Then Santa asked, “You like to be called Nicky?”

Nicky nodded. Then Santa turned the reindeer’s reins downward. “First house of the night!” he said cheerfully. “Give me the teddy bear and the scooter from the top of the bag. And four candy canes, please … perfect!”

He grabbed the presents, unbuckled his seatbelt, and clambered out of the sleigh. He walked across the roof and finally disappeared down the chimney. Nicky took a sip of her candy cane hot cocoa in its thermos and waited, thumbing the button that turned on the Santa Vacuum 500. Then Santa reappeared from the chimney and got back in. The reindeer took to the sky again.

The night continued like that. Occasionally Santa brought back a carrot for the reindeer or a Christmas cookie for Nicky.

Then, they reached the last house. The sun was just rising. Santa asked Nicky to deliver the presents for that house. She gathered them up and slipped down the chimney. It was sooty, but luckily there wasn’t a fire burning at the bottom. Nicky softly padded towards the Christmas tree. She set down the wrapped Christmas presents, slipped a candy cane into each stocking, and was turning back to the chimney when she saw a tiny child staring at her from the stairs.

Nicky froze. She turned around, went to the stairwell, and gave the little girl a candy cane, whispering, “Merry Christmas!” Then she went back to the chimney. Standing at the bottom, she felt the Santa Vacuum 500 pulling her up. She sat in the sleigh and Santa directed the reindeer upward.

They reached the North Pole again. Nicky and Santa got out of the sleigh. A few elves led the reindeer and the sleigh towards the stables. Santa invited her to his house for hot cocoa and cookies with Mrs. Claus. It was delicious. Then she went to her own house and fell asleep at once, feeling tired yet excited from the best night of her life.