The holiday season is approaching, and my Facebook news feed and Pinterest recently pinned boards are flooded with “Adorable” and “Creative” ideas for this year’s Elf on the Shelf antics for some suburban family or another. I’ve decided that I’m just going to say it.
I HATE ELF ON THE SHELF.
If you just love Elf on the Shelf, this post probably isn’t for you.
Firstly, I will totally admit that I don’t care for much for Christmas ANYWAY. I’ve posted about this before. So, of course part of my hatred for this new “tradition” that people have adopted stems from my dislike for the holiday it represents. However, that’s not all. I actually have some legitimate reasons for disliking the Elf on the Shelf cult that has taken over parents of my generation in the past few years. Buckle up and get ready. Here we go.
1. First off, I’m going mainstream here. IT’S CREEPY. Everyone who dislikes Elf on the Shelf has this complaint, and I totally agree. The concept of “I’m always watching you” is enough to make me feel defensive, but the elf itself is just eerie looking, and I don’t like his face. I don’t like his rosy cheeks that are too low on his face, I don’t like his smile that makes me think he was watching me in the shower, I don’t like his eyelashes that point toward the left, and I don’t like his shifty eyes. What on earth is he looking at, anyway?
2. It’s just SO commercial. I mean, Rudolf’s Montgomery Ward inception is bad enough, considering he is now such an integral part of the season, but this lanky elf just screams “BUY, BUY, BUY! Traditions can be bought and sold in America with no actual family traditional roots required!” The Elf on the Shelf is a multi-million dollar industry and is now in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and it has its own Facebook and Twitter pages.You can buy skirts to make your otherwise androgynous elf a female, or football jerseys to make them more masculine. You can buy Birthday versions, and plush dolls that your kids can actually touch (if you touch the actual Elf on the Shelf it loses its “magical” powers and then, well, I guess you just have to go out and buy a new one). The only people for whom this tradition actually had any familial meaning whatsoever just totally sold out, and that makes me really sad.
3. I feel that Elf on the Shelf gives kids the wrong idea about Christmas, but since this can also be said for Santa, so I’ll try to explain more. Sierra does the Santa thing, but we do it so differently that I can’t really compare the two with any confidence. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with a child believing in a little magic when they are forced to grow up in the callousness of what our world can sometimes be. Sierra makes a list of only 4 things for Santa: 1 item is something that she would like (toy, game, what have you), 1 item is something that she will wear, 1 item is something that she needs (notebooks for school, a new ski helmet, etc.), and 1 item is a book that she would like to read. She understands that this list is in no way indicative of what she will or will not receive on Christmas Day. She also puts out a bag of her toys and clothing that she has outgrown (in good condition, of course) on Christmas Eve that Santa will take with him after his visit. He distributes these items to those children who need a little extra each year. This has never been questioned or fought about. Understanding that there are less fortunate people in the world has been a part of Christmas since day 1. We do not say, “Santa is watching you!” We do not say, “Be good or you’ll get nothing but coal for Christmas!” We do not use Christmas gifts as a systematic approach toward good behavior with threats or motivation. THAT’S NOT THE POINT OF CHRISTMAS! This creepy Elf reports back to Santa on everything you do or do not do in your house, and thus, has the power to put you on the naughty or nice list. I feel that fear-mongering a child into believing that all bad behavior will cut them out of an important family celebration is heinous. I also feel that giving a child the idea that if they behave from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve they will get everything they ever wished for is equally abhorrent. A lot of people do that with Santa. We don’t. With a Naughty/Nice mentality toward the holiday, kids won’t understand the point of “goodness” without relation to receipt of presents or lack thereof, and that just seems WRONG, doesn’t it? Since when are presents required payment for doing good?
4. Speaking of doing good, can someone explain to me why the Elf gets away with mischief when he is supposedly keeping a shifty, creepy eye on your kids so they don’t do the same? He’s naughty! Many of the “poses” involve the Elf making a mess or getting into trouble of some sort during the night. Seems like a double standard to me, and I don’t get how kids wouldn’t be confused by it. I mean, if Sierra hosed down the kitchen with silly string while I was sleeping I wouldn’t laugh about it in the morning, you know? Why does the Elf get a bye? Why don’t we just go ahead and tell our kids that people with high connections can treat rules with a bit more laxity than others and be done with the creeper on the shelf if that’s the message you want to send?
5. Mommy wars. Seriously. I could write a whole post just on this subject alone. I’m not a dramatic person, so I don’t even open the Mommy Wars door, and since I truthfully don’t have many mom friends, I could, quite frankly, give a darn, but it’s a very real thing for many people. Here’s the thing though: kids notice that crap. I’m glad that Sierra knows that I don’t care what Such-and-Such’s horrifying Elf does every night. I know that I’m creative. I know that I’m a good parent. I don’t need to prove my creativity to others by my kid bragging to their friends at school about the new crazy thing the Elf came up with during the night. How far will the Elf go to prove which mom is the best mom? Who will win this year’s Mom Race? Seriously? Just because I don’t suggestively perch a creepy stuffed humanoid over a Hershey’s kiss for my kid to find in the morning doesn’t mean I care less about my child, and it doesn’t mean that you care more about yours…and my kid knows it-does yours?
6. This “tradition” has just become another easy-out for parents. Seriously. Think of what made your Christmas celebrations great when you were a child. The special moments probably weren’t even something very elaborate. Those should be the traditions you carry on, not this generic crap you buy off of Amazon that EVERYONE else also has. Traditions should belong to your family, and they should be the things that you and your family cherish doing together that set you apart in your child’s eyes.
Here is a small, friendly list of a few of our Christmas traditions, with their backgrounds. These are the things that Sierra loves about Christmas. It’s not the presents, it’s not even the magic. It’s this:
We sleep under the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve night. Josh’s family did this when he was young, and it is one of my favorite things. Everything seems so much more magical under the lit tree.
We make Grinch Tea to drink while watching The Grinch (the original version). Grinch Tea is Sprite and lime sherbet, float style. My family always did this, and when you’re snuggled up in your sleeping bag in front of the fire and the Christmas tree it’s super cozy.
We make peppermint ice cream. Homemade. Yes, it takes forever, and it is loud and noisy. It’s also a total family affair. We crush the candy canes together, we make the ice cream together, we add the candy bits together, and we freeze it to eat the next night as a family. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.
The Christmas Pickle. Look it up if you don’t know what it is. Since we only have one child we changed the rules a bit, and the “special gift” is shared amongst everyone. This tradition was started within Sierra’s lifetime when a couple of her “adopted” grandparents passed this tradition down to us from their family. That sounds confusing, but Sierra has a lot of family that is of no blood relation to us. We “adopt” people, and they become family to us. This family bequeathed the Christmas Pickle to us after their children and grandchildren were grown because they wanted to see the tradition kept alive in the eyes of a child. It works, and we were grateful for them sharing with us.
Well, that about wraps up why I abhorr Elf on the Shelf, and I think that my reasons are sound. Christmas should be special, especially for children, and it’s not special if it’s done cookie-cutter style like everyone else’s. Try to branch out a bit. It’s a bit more work, but the payoff is huge. When they are grown, they will remember, and they will carry on the tradition with their families. Don’t you want it to be something better than this?