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The Elf On The Shelf: A 21st Century Christmas tradition

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UNLESS YOU’VE been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the barrage of photos that inundated social media this time of year, featuring an elf, in seemingly happy holiday homes, across the world.

Sometimes the elf is mischievous, other times elaborate; some elves write notes, and others bring gourmet delights.

In cases where the elf forgets to move (and this should happen nightly), there is an entire section of ElfOnTheShelf.com entitled, “Why Didn’t Our Scout Elf Move?”, to give parents eleven different reasons to help continue the elf mythology.

The first Elf on the Shelf was produced in 2005, and now families can adopt boy and girl “scout elves” in light and dark skin tones. More than 13 million Scout Elves have been adopted by families all over the world. You can now add an “elf pet” to your collection in either a reindeer or Saint Bernard puppy and 2 million Elf Pets have been adopted in nine countries.

The Elf on the Shelf is so popular, it was featured in a sketch on Saturday Night Live earlier this month. Jason Momoa, known for his role as Aquaman, played Scrappy the Elf, who witnessed his assigned child doing some 13 year-old things. And you can’t miss the Elf balloon in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

For those not familiar with Elf on the Shelf, a scout elf comes to your home and, according to the companion book sold with the elf, “At holiday time Santa sends me to you.  I watch and report on all that you do. My job’s an assignment from Santa himself. I am his helper, a friendly scout elf.”

Once an elf arrives, your family is supposed to quickly name him or her, and each night while your child is sleeping, the scout elf flies back to the North Pole to frolic with their elf friends and report to St. Nick.

Children jump out of bed each morning to see where their scout elf has perched anew, and the only rule is that the children can’t touch the elf, otherwise the magic might go and the elf won’t be able to fly back to Santa.  

This year, all elves were scheduled to make their arrival or comeback from the North Pole between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1.

Men seem to be less adept than women at the whole elf moving tradition.  

Tye Whitely, mom of three, recently posted about her husband, Adot, “this is what happens when dad is in charge of our elf, Ruby, the kids wake up to find her pooping Hershey’s kisses,” with a photo of Ruby the Elf squatting over a red Solo cup.  

Beckie Hayes, mother of four, posted a photo of a large  Tyrannosaurus eating their elf, “when dad has Charlie (the elf) duty.”

In my own home, our teen son was on elf assignment one night this month and posed “Joy the Elf” with a paring knife.  

Whitely and Hayes both find their elves to be delightful holiday traditions.  

“We like our elfie Ruby Dee cause she’s fun and we tend to have fun around this time of the year. But let’s be clear, my kids behave with or without her, cause I’m the type of mom who will give out coal and take away presents if need be.  I have a list of what we need to do to raise responsible and caring kids, and giving out Christmas gifts ain’t on it,” said Whitely.

Hayes noted, “we try to keep kid magic alive as long as we can because they enter real life all too soon. I enjoy the magic through them.  We have had Charlie since the big kids were little kids, and now they help us maintain the magic with their younger siblings.”

I first learned about Elf on the Shelf several years ago, while visiting my friend Lisa Collins.  Though Collins’ children are now older, she had this to say:

“Although the elf sometimes puts a little stress in things, ‘oh no, I didn’t move it’ or ‘what am I doing tonight’, it keeps the magic real. My kids both know the truth, and have always known the real reason and celebration of Christmas,” she says.

More experienced holiday aficionados often comment, like Emily Calhoun did, “I am so glad the elf didn’t exist when my child was young. I love seeing what everyone’s elves are up to, but I find myself hoping I never have to live with one!”

Calhoun is a first time doting grandma this Christmas, and I bet there will be an elf in her life in the not-so-distant future.  

Theresa Gines, mother of one and a local teacher, lamented, “a student gave me the elf in 2013. They named him Jack. I used him in the classroom once and brought him home the next year and introduced him to Christian. It’s mostly for fun, kind of like kids believing in Santa, but I don’t do too much with it. It can get out of hand and you set higher expectations if you go nuts with it. I spend on average two to three minutes moving it. I did use the elf to be mischievous at first, and he still can be, but I’ve had him be a good role model too. One year, I had him open the Bible to a Bible verse.  I say if you want to do it, great. If not that’s fine too. There’s no single way to parent or have fun.”

Elise Williams, mother of a 3 year-old, acknowledging the hard work of parenting, replied, “I can’t keep all the current work and home balls in the air; it would be be fun, but that ball would definitely get dropped and my sanity would suffer needlessly.”

Tracy Brisson, a local businesswoman and mother of a 2 year-old boy, “whenever I see an Elf on the Shelf photo, I think of the $17 million a year the inventors make on parents’ pain.”

Creatively Classic Activities and Books (CCA & B, home of The Elf on the Shelf) have been in business for 13 years and have grown both the employee base and SKU count every year since the company began; all this while maintaining 100 percent family ownership. CCA & B is an-Atlanta based company with more than = 80 full-time employees, and contines to grow.

In addition to the elves and elf pets, you can purchase many accessories and couture outfits for your elf. A new movie and other box kits, such as “Letters to Santa” are also available on The Elf on the Shelf website and in stores.

In addition to these options, CCA & B works with many licensing partners to offer exclusive items to their customers such as Elf on the Shelf branded pencils, erasers, mugs, magazines, cookie mixes, and a wide variety of other holiday gear.  

In previous years, I was always grateful we had missed the window on this new holiday tradition as our son was too old; but we recently became guardians of a 7 year-old and her second grade teacher warned me that all of the students talk about their elves, so I would be wise to invite one into our home.

So far, Joy the Elf hasn’t been too cumbersome as my soon-to-be 18 year-old, husband and I stumble around in a nightly routine to move her to a different location for the little one to discover afresh.  

When asked what is on the horizon for 2019 for this profitable Georgia based company, CCA & B responded, “The North Pole is a large and magical place, and only Santa Claus knows what is next!”

However, a little scout elf did let it slip about the launch of “The Elf on the Shelf - A Christmas Musical”. Tickets go on sale next summer.    

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