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Elf on the Shelf

Thursday, December 5, 2013

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Elf on the Shelf

Have you ever had one of Santa Claus' elves sit on your shelf? Perhaps not, but this Christmas, mums and dads across the UK are set to adopt a little helper to keep a watchful eye on children in the run up to the magical day that is December 25th.

Elf on the Shelf is the brainchild of Carol Aebersold and her daughters Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts, who together wanted to share their fantastic idea with the world.

In the space of a few years it has gone from being a little-known self-published picture book – that comes with an elf figurine – to a million dollar institution that has, for now, become part of the Christmas tradition in the US.

The premise of the story goes as follows: every year, at around this time, Santa dispatches special elf scouts from the North Pole to help him manage his naughty or nice list.

They are adopted by families, given a unique name and, as is self-evident from the title of the book, they take up a semi-permanent residency in a prime but constantly changing location, where they diligently observe how youngsters are behaving.

You can consider them to be the eyes and ears of Father Christmas, or as the Huffington Post wonderfully described them in 2011, 'adorable yuletide enforcers'. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

The elves come equipped with special powers that allows them to magically fly back late in the evening to Santa's pad to report on the day's activities (so that's how he does it!), after which they return every morning to take up their post again.

Now, while they are there to do a serious job for Saint Nicholas, elves of course like to have a bit of fun and engagement with children and adults alike. They keep things somewhat fresh and exciting by perching themselves in a different spot and so begins a game of hide and seek.

"There are two simple rules that every child knows when it comes to having an elf," Ms Aebersold and her daughters are keen to point out.

"First, an elf cannot be touched; Christmas magic is very fragile and if an elf is touched it may lose that magic and be unable to fly back to the North Pole. Second, an elf cannot speak or move while anyone in the house is awake! An elf's job is to watch and listen."

The success of Elf on the Shelf is in its simplicity and family-centric ethos. The story is cute, funny and even though it is appealing to all demographics, especially wonderful for young children, for whom the custom of Christmas is very exciting anyway.

To keep things authentic, if this is your first experience of Elf on the Shelf, then it is perhaps advisable to go with the original box set. In it you'll find a beautiful hardback book, a girl or boy elf scout doll and instructions how to inform Santa that one of his little helpers has been officially adopted (you register online, which results in an adoption document and official letter from Saint Nicholas arriving through the post).

It is a marvellous tradition to start and, as is testament to the success of the book in the US and everything that has followed – social media presence, an animation, follow-up books and various toys – Elf on the Shelf has clearly left an indelible mark on the festive season, perhaps forever more.

Most of all, it's just jolly good fun.

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