The Elf on the Shelf: A Treasured Christmas Tale

Every holiday season, new traditions appear and quickly become beloved ones. This is exactly what happened with the Elf on the Shelf tradition that first appeared in 2005. The idea of Elf on the Shelf came from the children’s book, The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition. In this novel, an elf scout for Santa Clause is sent to a family’s home to watch the children’s behavior during the holiday season. Each night, the Elf goes again to the North Pole and reports the children’s behavior back to Santa. Then, he returns to the family’s home and hides in another spot the next morning to continue his watch. Since the book’s publishing, millions of parents and families have adapted this ritual for December.

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition started as an idea from their own family memory. Sisters Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts remember growing up during the 1970s. At Christmastime, an elf named Fisbee would visit the house each day and then communicate with Santa at night. In a 2017 interview with the Huffington  PostPitts stated she and her sister viewed this as a chance to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, or to show Santa their good behavior. However, the Elf on the Shelf tradition in the sisters’ home actually started during their mother’s childhood. In the same interview, their mother, Carol Aebersold, remembers Fisbee as a Christmas tree ornament. When Aebersold had kids of her own, she put her own spin on the elf, and Fisbee turned magical.

It wasn’t until 2004 that the family decided to write and self-publish the well-known book. A year later, they began taking their Elf on the Shelf kits, complete with the novel and elf, to trade shows and markets, as well as selling the kits online and at bookstores. Major success didn’t strike the family until 2007, when actress Jennifer Garner was pictured carrying a kit. A little while later, the Today show had a segment on the story and the rest is history. Now, over 11 million elves have been Santa’s scouts in homes throughout the world. The elf family has also grown, and today includes male and female elves, pet reindeers, and Saint Bernards. Other books have been added to the series, as well. If you are interested in purchasing, or as it is officially called, “adopting” your own elf from the North Pole, visit The Elf on the Shelf’s website at

Creative and Festive Elf on the Shelf Ideas 

One of the big draws of this tradition is the surprise children get waking up each morning and searching for their elf’s new hiding spot. According to tradition, your elf should make its yearly appearance during the Scout Elf Return Week from November 24 to December 1. Luckily, there is a little leeway on when your elf should make its first visit. Some families choose Thanksgiving night, while others wait until December. It is up to you. No matter when the Scout Elf returns for the holiday season, it can be difficult finding new daily hiding spots leading up to Christmas (the Scout Elf goes back to the North Pole for the year on December 25). And as with many things, social media and publicity have taken The Elf on the Shelf to the next level and some parents choose to create elaborate and fun scenes for their elves. If you are looking to elevate your elf’s hiding spot in an easy way, try these suggestions.

Quarantine – 2020 has hit us all in many different ways, so why not put your elf in quarantine? On the first date your family elf appears, have the elf wearing a tiny mask, small bottle of hand sanitizer, and a letter explaining why they are in quarantine and never to fear, but Santa is still safe and healthy at the North Pole.

Coloring Page – Get your kids involved with Elf on the Shelf and let them spend some time coloring with your elf. Place a coloring book or sheet and some crayons next to your elf.

Elf Friends – Your elf doesn’t have to show up one morning alone. Design a scene with your elf and your child’s favorite characters, such as Olaf, Moana, and more. You can include miniature toy figures of the characters or build them yourself out of materials you have in your home. For example, you can create Olaf from Frozen out of marshmallows or toilet paper rolls. Add orange construction paper for his features.

The Elf on the Shelf tradition may be on the newer side, but it is definitely one that is here to stay. If you are planning on starting this for your family, always remember to give your elf a name and make it truly a part of your family. Just as with the Aebersold family, your Elf on the Shelf will perhaps be passed down from generation to generation!



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