Elf on the Shelf

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: December 14, 2015

Elf on the Shelf

It’s that time of the year once again! Can you believe how quickly December came around?!

Some of us are busy putting up the tree, stringing the lights, hanging the wreath and…

Putting the elf on the shelf!

Wait… What?

An elf on the shelf?

Okay let’s back up and give some history to this and what it’s all about!

According to raving fans (and wikipedia), here is what Elf on the Shelf is all about:

To start – it’s a Christmas Tradition and it started from a 2005 children’s picture book, written and self-published by American author Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell…

The book tells a Christmas-themed story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and who is nice and describes elves visiting children between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, after which they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season….

The Elf on the Shelf comes in a keepsake box that features a hardbound picture book and a small soft toy in the form of a pixie scout elf….

Okay so that’s it in a nut shelf… Seems simple enough right?

Kind of… The plot thickens a bit…

The story describes how Santa’s “scout elves” hide in people’s homes to watch over events…Kind of creepy…

Once everyone goes to bed, the scout elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa the activities, good and bad, that have taken place throughout the day. Before the family wakes up each morning, the scout elf flies back from the North Pole and hides… Again, creepy…

By hiding in a new spot each morning around the house, the scout elf and the family play an on-going game of hide and seek…

The Elf on the Shelf explains that scout elves get their magic by being named. In the back of each book, families have an opportunity to write their elf’s name and the date that they adopted it. Once the elf is named, the scout elf receives its special Christmas magic, which allows it to fly to and from the North Pole.

The book tells how the magic might disappear if the scout elf is touched, so the rule for The Elf on the Shelf states, “There’s only one rule that you have to follow, so I will come back and be here tomorrow: Please do not touch me. My magic might go, and Santa won’t hear all I’ve seen or I know.”

Although families are told not to touch their scout elf, they can talk to it and tell it all their Christmas wishes so that it can report back to Santa accurately.

The story ends on Christmas Day with the elf leaving to stay with Santa for the rest of the year until the following Christmas season…

Wow! Now some parents out there are probably thinking what one writer on the Huffington Post ‘said, “Ain’t gonna happen, too much work!”

Others over the years have other reasons to say no…

For instance, the Elf has received some criticism from cultural reviewers. Atlantic columnist Kate Tuttle calls it “a marketing juggernaut dressed up as a tradition” whose purpose is “to spy on kids” and that one shouldn’t “bully your child into thinking that good behavior equals gifts.”

Washington Post reviewer Hank Stuever characterized the concept as “just another nannycam in a nanny state obsessed with penal codes”.

Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. David Kyle Johnston calls it a “dangerous parental crutch”, with much the same reasoning as what he terms the “Santa lie“.

And, Professor Laura Pinto suggests that it conditions kids to accept the surveillance state and that it communicates to children that “it’s okay for other people to spy on you, and you’re not entitled to privacy.”

Seems like some intense conversations for a little Elf…

What are your thoughts? Do you have an Elf on the Shelf? What has been your experience with it and why do you have it?

If you don’t have it, why not?

*Thanks Wikipedia for all things Elf on the Shelf

Photo courtesy of: http://www.elfontheshelf.com/


Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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