‘The Elf On The Shelf’ … and Myself

December 7, 2012

Elf on the Shelf

I’m a 28-year-old guy without kids, so you’ll have to excuse my general lack of knowledge when it comes to the canon of children’s literature. Until recently, I was to understand Harry Potter was the genre’s Alpha and Omega, though I have never read the books or seen the movies. I’m not sure I would like them, anyway.

Truth is, I’ve always sort of lacked a traditional, child-like imagination. You know, Coleridge’s willful suspension of disbelief. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, but even as a kid, the Santa Claus story just never made sense logistically. I mean, barring a grasp of quantum physics NASA would kill for, there was just no way Santa was hitting all of those houses that fast. Flying reindeer? What a bunch of malarkey.

I recognize the beauty of a child’s imagination, though I barely had one of my own, but that didn’t keep me from becoming seriously impressed last weekend when my cousin’s three daughters introduced me to “The Elf on the Shelf.” The book, written by the mother-daughter team of Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, features watercolor paintings and a rhyming tale about an elf who, more or less, serves as a spy on Santa’s behalf. Every night after kids go to bed, the elf up and leaves for the North Pole to provide Santa with insight as to how kids have been behaving. Every morning, the elf returns for more reconnaissance, each time spying from a new position.

The book even comes with a small elf doll. Once the elf is named and registered online, parents move the elf from location to location each night leading up to Christmas. There’s one very simple rule, though: Kids are not to touch the elf. Touch the elf and they can expect a stocking full of Kingsford briquettes. For shame!

You can imagine why “The Elf on the Shelf” has sold nearly two million copies. For parents, it might be the best disciplinary tool for the holiday season ever invented. For kids, its a fun, imaginative twist on the tired Santa Claus myth you and I grew up with. And for the team of Aebersold and Bell, the idea has been a massive hit. In fact, next Friday night, CBS will air “The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf’s Story,” which made its debut last Christmas season.

For me, it’s a reminder that creativity requires imagination. I may have been skeptical about Santa Claus when I was younger, but when I do have kid(s), I’ll definitely play along with “The Elf on the Shelf.”