The spirit of Christmas is upon us, and one of our family’s favorite holiday traditions is the oh-so-popular Elf on the Shelf. This “magical” elf usually appears (or rather is unpacked from the Christmas decoration containers) around Thanksgiving. He comes with a book that explains his story: In short, he uses his magical powers to fly back and forth to the North Pole each night while your child sleeps to tell Santa all about your family’s behavior––you know, to make sure everyone stays on the “good list.” But the real fun behind the elf is finding him in the morning and discovering what kind of mischief he got himself into overnight.
The first year I did Elf on the Shelf for the kids we just hid him in different spots. The second year I got a little more creative and started letting “Jangles” get into mischief around the house. Depending on how hard he partied the night before I had a huge mess to clean up the next day, which was a little bit annoying at times. The third year I decided to do scenes from the kid’s favorite movies and have Jangles act them out. One of the best was ‘Tarz-angles’ and we had Jangles in a leopard loin cloth swinging from vines. After the third year, the kids lost interest a little so I would take Jangles with us on out outings and holiday adventures and take his photo while we were there. On Christmas, I gave the kids a book that included all the photos. They were excited to see that he was there with us, and they never knew! Jangles went Black Friday shopping with us, to see a holiday movie and to visit our family in Georgia where we went to our favorite restaurant in Atlanta, The Varsity.
Fast forward several years and you can now buy accessories for your elf and the popular online handmade marketplace Etsy is full of different items to personalize to fit your lifestyle including NFL team jerseys.
While there are many people who think the concept is a little creepy…having an elf “spy” on your children to Santa, and others who seem to forget to move the elf or create new mischief each night, the purpose is to create holiday memories. If you do not wish to use Elf on the Shelf as a fun holiday tradition, there are alternatives including non-elf options.
Elf Magic’s Santa’s magic Elf Dolls give you more variety on doll appearances. They also have more accessories and instead of spying on you to Santa, these elves stay with you throughout the holiday season and return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. They do get into mischief at night with their ‘Elfcapades’ it is very similar to elf on the shelf with the main difference being the doll is completely plush. Available online at elfmagic.com.
Mensch on a Bench Created by Neal Hoffman after his son wanted an Elf on the Shelf, Mensch on a Bench spreads the Jewish tradition and the importance of being a good person. The book that comes along with the Mensch contains Hanukkah songs and activities as well as a list of Mensch Rules, such as giving gifts to the less fortunate, and making sure to use your Shamash candle to light your menorah. Available at themenschonabench.com.
Traveling Wise Men This tradition supports the meaning of Christmas. Written by local Woodbridge author Chelsea Wojcik, “Traveling Wise Men” follows the Elf on a Shelf concept except instead of using an elf you use the Three Wise Men from your nativity set. Read your book with your children and use your wise men to create ‘ADVENTures’ in your home. Your children will be delighted in each morning’s discovery of where the Wise Men have traveled on their way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Prince William Living is giving away one this month at pwliving.com/contests but they are available for purchase online at travelingwisemen.com.
This story was published in the December issue of Prince William Living magazine.