All of the gifts we give have been made by someone, or made by machines with people keeping an eye on them. Unless you buy directly from the creator, or from an outlet that cares about individual creators, you’ll know nothing about the elves who made your gifts.
Where do they live? What kind of standard of living do they have? Were they happy, while they were making that gift? We can’t tell, but at that same time, I think we all know the likely answers here are not happy ones.
It’s a whole other story with the elves we imagine making Santa’s gifts. Smiling, happy elves, willing to do the work. But at the same time we never see any rewards for those elves. We don’t tend to tell stories that give them rich personal lives.
So much of the ‘joy’ in this season depends on having money and resources. It’s fine and dandy if you can be the person who buys gifts, and a whole other story if you’re an invisible elf tucked away in some factory grinding this stuff out.
Happy elves tend to be working for themselves and making something they are invested in. Even then, most creative people don’t earn much for their labours. A few extra purchases here and there can make a world of difference, whereas spending your money with a big retailer just puts a bit more in the accounts of their shareholders.
When you buy gifts for others, you are, for a little while, in the Father Christmas role. It’s up to you what kind of real life elves you have.