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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 13:30 GMT
Santa's elves left out in cold
Santapark elves
No ho ho: Santa's elves have seen happier times
Some of Santa's elves are suffering a Christmas identity crisis after being laid off in Finland.

Santapark in Lapland says it's been forced to shed full-time elf staff to save money.

But for the elves left out in the cold, the decision has come as a bitter mid-winter blow.

"I feel really dejected, because being an elf is part of my identity," ousted elf Milja Vilmila told the American news agency AP.

The work is seasonal so we have to cut costs in all possible ways
Wille Rajala
Santapark managing director
"Something will definitely be missing this Christmas."

Santapark operators say they had no choice but to cut their elf staff down to size.

"We used to have 120 people on a monthly salary, which was ridiculous," , managing director Wille Rajala told AP.

"Now we are down to three full-timers.

"The work is seasonal so we have to cut costs in all possible ways."

Elves in cave

Santapark is visited by tens of thousands of people a year, nearly all of them during the main winter opening season.

They are shown into a huge cave where the attractions include elves selling souvenirs.

But critics say there is nothing to draw people back for repeat visits, and few attractions built around the Christmas story.

The park, which opened in November 1998 near the Arctic Circle, is not in profit and has six-figure debts.

Santapark was built in a former bomb shelter which needed further excavation and huge technical investment.

It is thought that the huge set-up costs are among the financial impediments.

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