The signs of Christmas arrive with an anticipatory feeling stirring in the cool breezes. Where once there was darkness, light appears twinkling, brightening yards and outlining houses. Vehicles are spotted traveling down highways and main streets with live trees bundled on their roofs. Once the tree is placed on its familiar stand, the household instinctively knows the spirit of the Christmas season has arrived. Boys and girls can also sense that the tree will encourage some form of magic. Then, arriving the following morning, a magical creature with an outfit of red and white, comprising boots, mittens, a tall hat and a jumper will be discovered sitting on a high shelf with a story book and a scroll of paper nearby. Shaky penmanship may offer the following message: “I am your Christmas elf. First, read the story to learn the rules. Then, give me a special name!” With wide eyes, and perhaps a few joyful hoots, jumps, and screams, too, the children will demand to know about their Elf on the Shelf.
In the magic tale of Santa’s elf, he arrives with a storybook of specific instructions. Children learn from the book that their elf has been sent to observe their good deeds and misbehaviors, with the intent of reporting back to Santa Claus. Once the children are well asleep, the elf will fly to the North Pole. But if he or she is touched by his charges, his magic will instantly disappear and prevent the named elf from leaving.
Once the rules are understood, the second instruction is to give the elf a special name, such as “Jingles” or “Sparkles,” “Peppermint” or “Tiny,” or, possibly, “Jack” or “Merry.” During his or her stay, the named elf enjoys receiving handwritten letters from the children, and being told what their charges did at school, and that they demonstrated perfect behavior.
An Elf Predicament
Not all named elves are well behaved. Arriving at a dark house prior to the sun’s arrival leaves time for an unexpected amount of trouble. Boy or girl elves have been known to borrow Barbie’s Jeep and be discovered dangling from curtain rods. Elves who enjoy adventure could end up hanging from the ceiling fan, or zip-lining with an elephant, monkey, or bear from the banister to the other side of the room. Families must be aware that the arrival of a magical creature can make the mornings either very entertaining or time-consuming, depending on the predicament. In an agreement requiring good behavior, children can be encouraged to write letters to their specific elf explaining the house rules, and perhaps offering a “stuffed” friend to keep the named elf out of trouble. (If parents find themselves asking, “What are we going to do with our elf?” suggestions are available online, or they can ask their friends.)
A Remembered Friend
Since 2005, the “Elf on the Shelf” has become a welcomed, unexpected tradition for families. Searching the house for the named elf represents a wish to find the spirit of Christmas. Parents will be pleased when the elf writes letters and conveys pride or encouragement to his or her young charges. For the child who loves Christmas and its magic, there is usually a feeling of disappointment when the named elf departs on Christmas night, and will not be seen again until a new beloved Christmas tree arrives in its stand. It’s therefore important for children to know he sees them when they’re sleeping and he knows when they’re awake. In their heart, the magic of the Christmas elf will remain every day of the year.