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Gnomes at Christmas

The Origin of Garden Gnomes

To find out about Christmas gnomes we have to start with garden gnomes. Garden gnomes trace their origins back to 19th century Germany. There small ceramic statues of people were placed in gardens and considered good luck. Referred to as “gartenzwerge,” or “garden dwarves,” in German, they often depicted kindly elders or mythological creatures drawn from Norse legend.

Old garden gnome in green santa suit standing in garden with garden tool

Gnome figurines became popularized after the 1872 vocational fair in Germany. It was there that Phillip Griebel created and displayed clay gnomes based on local myths. Known today as the “Father of the Garden Gnome,” Griebel’s designs caught on. His designs kickstarted mass production of decorative garden gnomes across Germany.

Christmas gnomes, as we know them today, emerged out of Germany and Eastern Europe in the mid-20th century. They were usually made of ceramics like traditional garden gnomes, but depicted in festive red and green outfits, santa hats, and with seasonal accessories like wreaths and candy canes.

As gnomes gained popularity, companies began offering a variety of Christmas gnome styles and designs including more fanciful, elf-like gnomes. By the 1980s and 90s, collecting Christmas gnomes was a rising hobby and decorative Christmas stores helped fuel gnome demand.

What Christmas Gnomes Represent

Beyond just being a decorative lawn ornament, Christmas gnomes carry symbolic meaning that many find endearing:

  • Whimsy And Childlike Wonder- Gnomes depict a sense of fantasy, playfulness, and imagination that captures the magical spirit of Christmas. Their smiling faces transport us back to the excitement of childhood holidays.
  • Christmas Tradition- For many families, accumulating Christmas gnomes has become a holiday tradition passed down across generations.
  • Luck And Prosperity- Drawing from their garden gnome origins, Christmas gnomes imply hopes for future blessings, health, and good fortune in the new year.
  • Guardians of Christmas Spirit– They symbolize the spirit of giving, togetherness, and the joy of the holiday season. Their watchful presence is said to ward off negativity and promote a sense of harmony.
Gnome with santa hat standing on snow with skis

Fun Christmas Gnome Facts

  • Gnomes Worldwide- Gnome-like creatures exist in folklore from various cultures around the world. They go by different names, such as “gnomi” in Italy, “kaukis” in Lithuania, and “leprechauns” in Ireland.
  • Traveling Gnomes- The concept of “gnome kidnapping” or “gnoming” became a humorous trend in the early 2000s. Travelers would steal garden gnomes and take them on adventures, photographing them in various locations and then returning them home with a photo album chronicling their travels.
  • Gnome Gardens- Many garden enthusiasts create special gnome gardens, complete with miniature houses, bridges, and gnome figurines. These gardes provide a whimsical and magical touch to their outdoor spaces.
  • Porridge- In Norway, it is customary to leave out a bowl of porridge for the Christmas gnome on Christmas Eve. It demonstrates a token of gratitude for their protection and goodwill.
  • Guardians of Farmsteads- In Nordic traditions, they believed gnomes live on farms and bring good luck to the household. They especially associate gnomes with protecting the farm’s animals.
  • Winter Solstice Celebrations– Gnomes are an integral part of winter solstice celebrations in Scandinavia. They symbolize the return of the sun and the promise of longer, brighter days.
  • Gnome Festivals- Some places host gnome-themed festivals and events during the Christmas season. They feature parades, contests, and gnome-related activities for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Symbol of Good Luck- Gnomes are often seen as symbols of good luck and protection, making them a popular addition to holiday decor to bring positivity and warmth to the home during Christmas.
Three gnomes with red hats standing in a field

What did one Christmas gnome say to the other when they found the perfect tree?

“Gnome, sweet gnome!”

For those who find joy in celebrating the holidays surrounded by whimsy and charm, there will always be a special place for cheery Christmas gnomes in their homes and hearts. When thoughtfully displayed as part of a cohesive winter wonderland theme or as beloved heirlooms, gnomes can evoke nostalgia and playfulness for generations to come.

Blue Christmas gnome ornament in Christmas tree


  1. This is so fun – my sister is obsessed with Christmas gnomes and I get her an ornament every year. I had no idea this was such a big thing!

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