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Worldwide slump reaches elf-conomy

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Small business owners, banks and department stores aren't the only ones taking a hit with the economic downturn. While things may be looking brighter for some, production at Santa Claus' North Pole has yet to rebound.

"We may not be in the best situation this year," said Santa Claus, "but we've been worse off in previous years, and we've been better. Nothing will stop me, though, from heading out on Christmas Eve with a sleigh loaded full of toys."

Of the numerous issues the North Pole faces, it seems the elves have taken the brunt of it.

"With stores going out of business, we haven't been able to get all the parts we need to make toys. Without those parts, we're improvising with a lot of toys. But parents shouldn't worry, because our toys will still be North-Pole quality," said Holly, Santa Claus' head elf.

"Our treasury is also running a bit lower this year, but it's nothing like what I saw during the Great Depression in the 1930s," Holly said. "I'm 347 years old; I've seen a lot go on here at the North Pole."

Though Santa's workshop has seen worse times, Santa and the elves are battling the recession just as people further south.

"Sadly, we've had to let some of the less-cheerful elves go," Holly said.

Santa Claus' spokesperson acknowledged approximately 50 elves were let go in the past month, sending uproar throughout the elf community.

"I'm definitely going to file a complaint against upper management," said Ralphy, a toy production elf laid off in April. "We've had a good thing going for several centuries. Why now?

"I don't know what I'm going to do," he said. "I can't bake cookies in a tree because I can't afford fire insurance, and I know nothing about shoes. My tights are torn; my boots are worn - what's an elf to do?"

Some elves are resorting to other job opportunities, soliciting shoppers coming out of the mall asking for work to decorate homes for the holidays or wrap presents. All the while, elves in Santa's workshop are working longer, harder hours with the reduction in manpower.

"I've heard people in the Armed Forces talk about decreasing numbers and increasing operations tempo; but compared to our workshop, they ain't seen nothin' yet," Ralphy said.

Editor's note: A number of people contributed to this fictional story. Thank you to Senior Airman Holly Roberts, Senior Airman Lana Mills, Senior Airman Clay Murray, 2nd Lt. Kathleen Polesnak and Capt. Jared Ferneau for keeping with the holiday spirit.