We are obsessed with elves. Is it because they are known to be mischievous and a bit eccentric (à la Will Ferrell in Elf)? Perhaps. Is it because even though Santa gets all the fame and glory for zipping around the world in a reindeer-powered sled, delivering presents to all the good boys and girls, we know who's doing all the real work back at Santa's workshop? Definitely. The elves are the classic underdogs. And although recently we have been introduced to the tall and handsome variety (Lord of the Rings' Legolas is a fox!), the short, hard-working North Pole variety is what normally comes to mind (Rudolph's dentist friend, Hermey, for example).

This year pay tribute to the true heroes of Christmas: the elves. The perfect place to see these magical creatures in action is at Santa's Magical Kingdom in Jellystone Park (Fox Creek Road, north off I-44's exit 261 in Eureka). In Elf Land you can see the elves in their natural habitat: laughing and dancing in the trees. Or catch a glimpse of the Acrobatic Elves performing their daredevil stunts. Of course the elves have been hard at work in the rest of the Magical Kingdom, too -- training the Dancing Dolphins, decorating the life-size gingerbread house and prepping Santa to greet you! View the two million-plus lights (starting at 5 p.m. every evening through January 2) from your car or van ($15); mini-bus, limo or commercial passenger van ($25); or from the Santa Express Train ($10 per person). For more information call 636-938-5925, check out www.eurekajellystone.com/santa, or e-mail (guess who?) the elves at elves@santasmagicalkingdom.com. -- Amy Helms


SAT 12/18

Christmas comes early for fans of classic slapstick comedy, thanks to the Webster Film Series. The Mondo Matinee this month is nothing but slapstick: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and, yes, the beloved Three Stooges are all on the schedule for the 1:30 p.m. "Slapstickapalooza," which is further buttressed by trailers and cartoons. Incidentally, the WFS promises that the Three Stooges shorts are "100% Curly Joe free," which is music to our ears. We're Curly people over here, and we don't cotton much to his replacements. Tickets for the show are $5, and the slapping, pratfalls and eye-pokes are confined to the Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-968-7487), so keep your hands to yourself. -- Paul Friswold

Now Till forever

Check it out: Science education can be almost as big and loud as an AC/DC show! The clattering, sprawling Energizer Machine has taken up permanent residence in the lobby of the St. Louis Science Center (5050 Oakland Avenue). At any given moment, 80 gumball-colored plastic shotputs are rolling through three stories of gears, pulleys, corkscrews, cones and a quarter-mile of track, vividly illustrating the theories of brilliant physicists like Isaac Newton and Rube Goldberg. The upper floors of the atrium offer great vantage points for watching; if that's too sedentary for you, take a walk on the human-size hamster wheel. (The exhibit's free and open during Science Center hours. Call 314-289-4444 or see www.slsc.org.) -- Jason Toon

Good Gluttony

WED 12/15

Christmas, after Thanksgiving and Arbor Day, is the holiday most associated with eating. And yet for many people, food is in short supply. But you, with your fancy haircut and your nice shoes, you can afford to not just eat, but eat well. So share the wealth, in more ways than one. For a $5 donation to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, you can attend the RFT-sponsored Cocktails for a Cause night at Bailey's Chocolate Bar (1915 Park Avenue; 314-241-8100). The SLAFB turns every dollar into 6.5 pounds of food, so your donation becomes 32.5 pounds of food! Challenge yourself to eat that much chocolate at Bailey's between 6 and 8 p.m., and if you fail, donate another $5 to the cause. It's a win-through-losing proposition. -- Paul Friswold

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