"The Elf on the Shelf" is a Holiday Tradition Worth Starting

Family Matters on 11.28.11
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Photo Credit: Elf on the Shelf

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I must admit that I love Christmas time. I love seeing all the homes decorated in their glistening white lights and beautiful wreaths hanging on the door. I love gathering with friends at holiday parties and picking out presents for our loved ones, and I love how excited the kids get every time Santa is mentioned. But I also truly love the magic that is cast over our household when The Elf on the Shelf arrives. You have never seen children behave so well as when they think Santa's elves are in the same room.

The Elf Brings Magic and Good Behavior

The idea behind this genius concept created by Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda A. Bell is that Santa sends an elf to live in your home during the holiday season. Your child gets to name the elf upon his initial arrival making each home's elf unique, and each night the elf flies back to the North Pole-using Christmas magic to get there and back in time-to report to Santa on all the good or bad things the children of the house have done that day. The elf moves around the house each day so that the children know that he left his post to report to Santa. And the one very important rule is that the children under no circumstances are allowed to touch the elf which makes him seem even more important and magical. If they touch the elf he is supposed to not come back the next day and that means that he won't be able to report to Santa and Santa won't know if they've been good or bad.

I love The Elf on the Shelf because it is a good enough story that it reels in the kids but it also gives enough leeway that the parents can make up part of the story and the rules to suit the needs of their household. Our elf is named "Cookie," and this will be the third Christmas he has spent with us. He likes to watch what happens in our house from places high above like the top of the kitchen cabinets or a curtain rod or nestled high into the Christmas tree so that we don't have any little fingers get too tempted to touch him. We don't have too many spots to put him so he tends to rotate through the same spots but my kids who are five-and-a-half and two-and-a-half years old don't seem to mind.

Every morning they go running down the stairs to find out where he has moved to, and they are much less likely to talk back or misbehave with Cookie nearby.  And if they do, it dissipates much faster than normal. The Elf on the Shelf makes the phrase "he knows when you've been good or bad" seem more real and adds an element of fun and magic to the daily discussion of Santa coming soon. When kids are small enough to believe in Santa, it's nice for them to have something a bit more tangible to grasp, and this does just that. It also helps when the kids are actually being bad. Last year Cookie hand delivered a letter from Santa to our son telling him he'd better shape up if he wanted any toys, and my son still talks about it regularly.

Making a New Holiday Tradition

I have to say that I don't know that I ever would have bought this on my own, but it was given to us as a gift and it has now become one of my favorite holiday traditions. There is part of me that feels bad that I'm pulling one over on my kids, but there have been a bazillion other parents that have walked this earth who have taught their children about Santa Claus, and there is nothing quite like the magic and wonder in a child's eyes in their anticipation of St. Nick's arrival...except for the wonder and magic in a child's eyes when they believe one of Santa's very own elves has been dedicated to them personally and is living in their house.

A few warnings on The Elf of the Shelf include that not every family has the exact same rules for their elf so be prepared to be able to come up with a quick answer as to why they may be a little different, and the elf goes back to live with Santa during the off season so you need to have an excellent hiding place where you're children won't find him by accident during the 11 months he is back at the workshop. But overall, I would say that if Santa makes a stop at your house, make The Elf on the Shelf part of your holiday tradition.

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