The New Year cards are just chock full of gnomes. You might even say it’s an infestation. I mean, sure, there are a lot of pigs. But the gnomes show up even more often.
The weird thing is that, while the pigs have a tradition and reasonable explanation for them, the gnomes are a bit harder to account for.
They’re all across the nationality spectrum. English gnomes, Scandinavian gnomes, German gnomes, French gnomes, I’ve even found a Russian gnome (although I lost the card…I’ll post it when I find it.)
But why New Years cards in particular? They show up occasionally in Christmas cards, but apart from pictures of just straight-up drinking to depression, gnomes are one of the most popular images.
I can’t find a good explanation why either online or in anything I’ve read.
The popular explanation online is that it’s all tripped-out, old school hallucinogenic holiday fun. There’s a big love online of using these cards as evidence that the old Northern and Central European winter solstice traditions used fly agaric mushrooms as part of the celebrations. And, of course, gnomes and elves seem trippy.
I don’t buy it. But I think it’s a cool theory, and one day I’ll get around to why I both love and hate the idea.
So why gnomes? Elves and fairies were never really seen as good luck charms in most cultures. On the contrary, you had to do all kinds of things to keep them from causing trouble. So to see them associated with other images of fortune and prosperity for the new year is odd, to say the least.
But there they are, always hanging out with pigs, clovers, horseshoes, and showering money all over themselves and the rest of the world.
The one above made me wonder if the gift-giving thing and Santa and his elves had something to do with it, but you don’t usually see them associated with other St. Nick or Santa or gift-giving imagery. So is it something about the elves (or leprechauns or whatever) hoarding cash? Possibly…
So I’m clueless. If you have more insight, post a comment or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. This one bugs me because I can’t figure it out, and I feel like it should be more obvious.
In the meantime, have a gnice gnomey gnew gn…year: