Elf on the Shelf

I used to see the book advertised in obscure catalogs. I had never heard of this holiday tradition, and figured it was nothing more than a little-read book someone wrote. This Christmas I see that thing everywhere - books, stuffed toys, knickknacks - was this a real thing I had never heard of? It wouldn’t surprise me because I’m not that aware of things, but it seems like I would have heard someone talk about it years ago.

I came across it a couple of years ago when a relative and her husband had set one out in the days leading up to Christmas. It’s a two-parter - a book with the explanatory story (the elf watches you and reports back to Santa every night) and the elf.

Boy . . . I just . . . you know, if you can’t keep your kids from setting fire to each other without the equivalent of a Potemkin security camera on them, maybe you need to rethink your approach to child raising.

Calaquendi or Moriquendi?

40 years ago when I was a kid my parents would put up one new Christmas decoration a night telling us “the Christmas Fairy” put it up. We had a great time searching the house each morning looking for the new decoration.

The Christmas Elf is our equivalent. My 3 year old in particular loves searching the house for it in the morning. If you think that makes me a bad parent… well foo on you.

We had a friend, short lived friendship, that kept a chart for her preschool kids tracking “good days” and “naughty days” leading up to Christmas. I thought it was awful, all those Santa naughty days staring at them every day. They were only 3 or 4 years old.

She was also a pediatrician…

I think that thing is a total freakshow and it would scare the bejeesus out of me. It’s like a ventriloquist’s dummy with a hotline to Santa.

I don’t judge others for having/using them if their kids enjoy it, of course. I just don’t want it in my house, watching me.

My mother used to warn us about “the elf in the chimney” who’d tell Santa if we were bad. I used to live in fear of the elf until one of my brothers sensibly pointed out that if the elf was in the chimney, and elves don’t have x-ray vision, I could make all the trouble I wanted as long as I kept it quiet.

We have Christopher Popinkins instead of Elf on the Shelf, but it’s the same idea. We don’t do the “elf is watching you” thing – it’s just a fun game for the 4-year-old to run about in the morning to find him.

This is the first year we’ve done it; I got it as a gift from my kindergarten-teacher sister last Christmas. The Amazon page says Christopher has been on the market since 1984, I can’t seem to find a date for Elf on the Shelf. The “tradition” certainly seems to be getting a lot more media play lately, which easily accounts for its spread.

I don’t have kids, so what do I know? But is telling a kid that an elf is watching him that much different than telling him/her that Santa is real and that Santa is watching him?

Wikipedia suggests the 2005 book stemmed from an 1840s version of Scandinavian folklore.

I saw this on it’s own display at a Barnes & Noble a few years back and thought it looked like someone who had a family tradition and decided they would try to make a few bucks off of it. ($30 for a book and an ugly doll???) I thought it was destined to failure since anyone who liked the idea would buy their own stuffed elf for much cheaper and better looking than the creepy one they include.
I guess I was wrong sine this thing seems to be massively popular.

That one is a whole let less freaky-looking to me.
I do like the whole ritual of having something to look forward to each day—in your case and Pixel_Dent’s, finding the elf. In our house, it helps the kids get moving in the morning if they know that they can open a door on their advent calendars once they’re dressed and ready.

I’m a bit leery of a commercially-pushed “tradition.” The Scandinavian roots strike me as a bit threadbare, similar to a TV movie’s based on true events.

But then again, the Dudeling is only two and is just starting to get an appreciation for the Santa concept (though being secular Jews sliding strongly through agnosticism and tippy-toeing towards atheism, that’s a whole other thread). My brother does it and his kids love it, so there is that major positive force in shaping my opinion.

See, this is the kind of thing that’s bound to get us in trouble. One scenario is the mother-in-law innocently buys it for him and we begrudgingly put the scary-looking doll around for a year or so leading to family angst similar to unworn hand-made sweaters. Another scenario is we end up going with the meatball-on-the-shelf who keeps tabs and reports back to the FSM–which when he ends up repeating in kindergarten will get him beaten up by rednecks and us getting calls from CPS.

No, wait. The Zelf on the Shelf should do the trick!

My grandmother had a pair of these that were her mother’s, and my mom still has them, I guess they have been in the family for at least 60 years. The boy elf looks exactly like this new one that sells, and the girl has blonde hair. We never had a book and they were never used as surveillance on us kids, they were just decorations. I didn’t even know they were supposed to be watching you until this past year. So where the hell did our dolls come from? My family has no Scandinavian roots, as if I didn’t think these things were creepy my whole life, now I think they are from the future or something.

Iceland’s Christmas traditions are built more heavily around elves and gift-giving and/or mischief: The Yuletide Lads (Jólasveinar) show up and play tricks on families, but also give out gifts to good children. Bad kids get eaten by the Christmas Cat (Jólakotturinn), who belongs to the parents of the Yuletide Lads. I’ve heard on more than one occasion older Icelandic kids tell their younger siblings that the Christmas Cat is going to get them if they’re naughty-- it’s the closest equivalent to the “elf on a shelf” tradition I’ve seen in action.

Having grown up with elves as part of Christmas decorations, I find the Elf on a Shelf phenomenon to be a little contrived and creepy. I am not opposed to innocuous elves as part of the decorations, but punitive elves that are also ugly is not really my thing.

Not being a parent, it makes sense you didn’t get the memo: Every single thing every other parent does that you don’t do is reason to get a case of the vapors. And no, it’s no different.

The Littlest Briston has one of these at her mother’s house, and she absolutely loves it. I constantly hear stories about where “Elfa” was hiding and how much fun had finding her.

TLB doesn’t know it yet, but when she wakes up here Christmas Eve, Elfa will be be making a surprise visit to my place – Santa is a little too busy this year to bring TLB her traditional “one present she can open on Christmas Eve” (a new pair of Christmas pajamas), so Elfa is going to be here, gift in tow. Can’t wait – kid is gonna pop a cork over that move. :slight_smile:

I’ve seen many people (Facebook, etc.) who use them as legitimate threats to keep their kids in line. That weirds me right the fuck out.

Meh. Add it to the list of imaginary threats (“be good or the boogyman will get you”, "be good or you’ll get nothing from Santa, “be good or god will send you to hell”, “be good or I’m going to smack you back into your mother’s uterus”, etc.) that plenty of parents use every day. It’s been around a lot longer than the first verse of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.

Not a good parenting strategy, but I’ll certainly raise an eyebrow to anyone who claims they were harmed as a child because the elf tattled on them.

I agree. It’s a little too close to having Chucky in the house.

the thing is, it’s marketing. There’s a movie coming out soon, so now something that was harmless and no bigger than anything else is the latest commercial phenomenon and we just can’t get enough of it. Another sweet tradition sucked up by Hollywood. yay.