April Moments

Maybe, just maybe, telling the story is just as important as the story itself

Why there is no elf on my shelf

April the Grinch is back, folks. Last year I tackled the Santa sham. This year I’m sure I’m going to make a lot of people mad by expressing my thoughts on that darned “Elf on the Shelf.”

Let me begin by saying that my dislike of the elf is not a judgment of your Christmas traditions. If the elf is part of your holiday, I’m not condemning you, nor am I voicing my objections to what you do in your home. Rather, I am simply stating why I choose not to adopt an elf. Parenting is the world’s toughest job, and I prefer to let moms and dads do what works best for their families. If you like the elf, think the tradition is fun and can actually remember to move it every night, then it is working for you.

According to the official website, the gift set includes “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition” hardcover children’s book, a North Pole pixie elf (available as a boy or girl, light or dark skinned) and a keepsake box. After a family receives the elf, they must name it and officially adopt it by registering it on the website. Only then does the elf earn its powers – to be the eyes and ears of Santa Claus. The elf listens and observes each day, and then flies to the North Pole every night to give its report. This is how Santa knows whether children should be on the naughty or nice list.

If you read my Santa blog from last year, you know that one of the reasons I’m turned off by the plump man in the red suit is because the entire premise revolves around lying to my children. If I were to incorporate the elf into our Christmas traditions, it would require even more lying. The creators of The Elf on the Shelf call this the “magic of Christmas.”

Speaking of the creators, they seem like really nice, enthusiastic businesswomen. Mother Carol Aebersold and her twin daughters Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts identify themselves on The Elf on the Shelf website as “stewards of Christmas” who “work for Santa Claus.” It is incredibly important to them to “keep the magic alive.” In fact, they have used their utmost dedication to taking “Christmas magic very seriously” and keeping that “culture in tact” to build a brand that is now recognized nationally and internationally. “Every single person that works for us looks at that as their mission and their vision, and that’s how we approach every day,” said Pitts in a video on the website.

What began as a simple tradition when Aebersold was raising her children is now big business – complete with brand recognition, expert marketing and product placement. In addition to the standard aforementioned Elf on the Shelf gift set, consumers can visit “Santa’s store” and buy skirts for female elves, books, DVDs and other merchandise. These three women, who are operating a family-owned business, are obviously skilled at targeting consumers. In fact, Bell’s bio notes that she has an “ability to hone in on the desires of the American consumer to create more meaningful family moments.”

Please read that last sentence carefully. I think it speaks volumes to what Christmas has become in the United States – companies learning how to fulfill consumers’ desires. I guess I would just like to point out that, while many view The Elf on the Shelf as a cute family tradition, there is extensive work going on behind the scenes to make it as profitable as possible.

The lying and the big business are only two reasons why there is no elf on my shelf. Another issue I have is that I would have to remember to move the elf every night. Well, at least, most nights. The website does address this in its FAQs if a child wants to know why his or her elf hasn’t moved: “Don’t worry. Sometimes your elf will have a favorite spot, just like you might have a favorite chair or spot on the couch. If the elf hasn’t moved, it is probably sitting in one of its favorite spots.” I have enough to do in the evenings after my children are in bed; I really don’t want to be creative and find an interesting spot for the elf.

During my research for this post, I read a couple blogs about moms who get extra creative and make elf messes. Their elves occasionally get a little naughty, so they might take all the ornaments off the Christmas tree or leave food on the kitchen floor. I found no mention of elf messes on the official website, so I guess some parents do this when they know they’ll have a surplus of time to clean up messes the next day?

Next, some parents swear by the elf because it improves their children’s behavior during the Christmas season. After all, boys and girls are trying to land on Santa’s nice list. As a Christian I believe this is contrary to the Bible’s teaching. Nothing my children or I do can make us good. It is only through the perfect gift of Jesus’ sacrifice that we are made right with God. While Christmas began as our culture’s recognition of Jesus’ birth, the Bible does not require that we celebrate the holiday. I believe the incarnation of God in Jesus’ flesh is deserving of celebration every day of the year.

Again, I am not judging you if you incorporate Santa Claus and/or The Elf on the Shelf into your Christmas traditions. My husband and I have adopted what I would call a toned down version of Santa, but we try and honor Jesus above all else.

Finally, while I believe that focusing on what’s happening in my children’s hearts is more important than their actions, I do think it is wonderful to have well-behaved children. A co-worker and I joked that we should invent a doll that makes children behave appropriately all year round. Then we could really be rolling in the deep. Oh wait, that’s Adele. I mean, rolling in the dough. As a parent who’s tried sticker charts and other rewards for good behavior, I would venture to say that part of the reason The Elf on the Shelf improves children’s behavior is because it is present only for the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a novelty. Surely, an all-year-round figurine would lose its luster.

Originally published on ovparent.com.


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