A secret Christmas elf is helping people get into the Christmas spirit by hiding 25 gifts around the Nicola Valley, in the hopes that finding a surprise will bring cheer to a season otherwise dampened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Herald was able to arrange a secret conversation with Merritt’s Christmas Elf, on the grounds that their identity be kept strictly classified. Scout’s honour.

Merritt’s elf was inspired to do something for others after hearing the message on television.

“Over the last year I’ve been watching this ad on television for a woman, who I think is a retired woman in Vancouver, and she said that what she did, is at the end of every month, if she has anything left over, then she gives it away,” explained the elf.

“And so, I’ve sort of been doing that. So that’s why this is happening, and also I wanted it to be a little bit of fun because we’re about to go into Christmas.”

Now a retiree from Santa’s workshop, the elf found they had a few dollars to spare each month, and wanted to do something with the money that would benefit the community and bring a smile to people’s faces.

To do this, the elf visited local businesses and purchased gift cards, placing them in cute Christmas boxes and then distributing them around town. Several of the 25 presents, representing around $600, have already been found; some downtown, some in Lower Nicola, and even at City Hall.

“I thought it would be nice, because I put some on the shelves in different stores and I had purchased the gift card from that store,” explained the elf.

“So, if they were in Extra Foods and they found one of the little things, it had a gift card for Extra Foods. It supports our local people in town and our local shops.”

The elf reached out to Catherine Belliveau, an admin of the local Facebook group ‘The Merritt Grapevine’ via text, asking if the message could be shared there. Anyone who finds one of the gifts is asked to take a selfie with it and post it in the comments of the elf thread on the Grapevine.

So far, Merritt’s Christmas Elf has enjoyed scrolling through the comments and seeing pictures of people finding the hidden holiday swag.

“It feels like I got to share a little bit of fun with people in this community,” said the elf.

“I think this community is one of the nicest communities I’ve ever been in, and I’m not unusual in this town. People in this community give and care, every single day. This is just another one.”

At the end of the conversation, after a wholehearted thank you from myself for helping to keep the season merry and bright, Merritt’s Christmas Elf hung up the phone, but not before a sincere, “Merry Christmas.”