I am always happy to open another Reindeer and Elf Games. Although we hold the games three times a year, each games is different, and all of them are exciting.
Let me explain how the games work, since most of you haven't had the chance to visit the North Pole. Three times a year, Reindeer and Elves come from their homes to compete to be on Santa's main Christmas Crew. Winners of each of the events earns points, with the top eight Reindeer and the top dozen Elves capturing a position on the big night.
Most of you probably only know about nine Reindeer by name... Dasher, Dancer, Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Prancer, and Vixen. And of course, Rudolf. Actually though, we have new Reindeer rotating through the team every year, since even the Reindeer here don't live forever, or even stay top performers for more than three or four years. The names that you all know are more based on positions, with new Reindeer competing in the Reindeer games every year to become the new Blitzen or Cupid or whoever. We try to fit the various position with Reindeer who have the characteristics that the position is expected to have. This makes filling the Rudolph position difficult, since real red nosed Reindeer don't qualify for the team every year.
Elves are different. We actually employ a lot of Elves here in Santa's Village at the North Pole. Pretty much any elf can come up here from one of the Elf villages... there are six of them, and none more than about forty miles away. Some help out in the workshop, while others get a job around town, working as a baker, newspaper elf, or what have you. Generally, elves stay for three to five years, and then go back to their village to relative fame. The elves who win at the games are the same, but they get to help out during the mad rush of Christmas.
The only Elf who has stayed up here longer is Bernard. He's special. Actually, Bernard is more of a title, come to think of it. As always, a Bernard is a half elf, with a human father, and an elf mother. Or sometimes the other way around. Crosses between Humans and Elves are very rare… scarcely occurring once every 50 years. Since the average lifespan of a Bernard is about 75 years, there are usually never more than two alive at one time: an old Bernard, and a young Bernard. The current Bernard is 32 years old. While Bernard used to be somewhat of a social outcast, the tradition of serving as Santa Claus's defacto liaison with the rest of the Elves has made it a tradition of honor.
Anyway, the Opening Ceremony for a Reindeer and Elf Games is a lot of fun. Each of the Elf villages has a flag that the Elves from that village bring up when they arrive. The Reindeer don't use flags, but the Reindeer from each herd arrive as a group, holding themselves up proudly.
This year there were 57 Elves and 102 Reindeer competing. With so many, most of the events will go several rounds while we whittle down the field. At the end of the competition in the Fall, the dozen Elves and eight or nine Reindeer who have the highest point totals will be selected to work with me this Christmas.