April in Glenwood: To elf or not to elf on the shelf?
Years before I entered my notoriously unchartered territory of parenthood, I thought the Elf on the Shelf trend was hilarious. I laughed and laughed at all the Internet memes of the smirking plastic elf with bendable appendages getting himself in a pickle while the kids were nestled all snug in their beds.
Think more naughty than nice.
For the understandably unaware, Elf on the Shelf is one of those pop culture phenomenons that’s been elevated to mainstream hipness by putting satire and sarcasm to great holiday use. The humor is especially welcome at Christmastime, when laughter is the best medicine for crowded shopping excursions and strained interpersonal relationships.
The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful.
The often-ornery Elf on the Shelf was born innocently enough. The trendy Christmas tradition first become a public figure in the 2004 self-published children’s picture book by Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell, illustrated by Coë Steinwart. The idea is that Santa Claus created nosy little elfen scouts to hide out in people’s houses and spy on them from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.
Not creepy at all.
According to Elf on the Shelf lore, i.e. its wiki on Wikipedia, once everyone in the host family goes to bed, and before they wake up in the morning, the scout elf — more like the mole — flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa what has taken place each day. That way Santa knows who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Then the elf sneaks back into the house and assumes a position. “By hiding in a new spot each morning around the house, the scout elf and the family play an on-going game of hide and seek,” says the book’s plot description.
Did I mention being creeped out?
Part of the fun for parents, kids, and anyone on social media who finds humor in naughty Elf on the Shelf memes, is the predicaments these pixie spies find in the middle of the night. When trying to throw off the family as to where they’ve been all night, elves must be creative.
Or at least have access to search ideas on Pinterest.
The Elf on the Shelf might make snow angels on the counter in a pile of flour or ice cream sprinkles. Elves have been known to wrap kitchen cabinets with Christmas paper. Or meet up late-night with Barbie and Skipper while Ken is tied up in the bathroom with toilet paper.
Just don’t give Elf on the Shelf the keys to the pink Barbie Corvette.
A long-running joke among some of my Facebook friends fluent in sarcasm is to post memes of Elf on the Shelf pushing the irony envelope. There’s no parenthood requirement to ignite the Elf on the Shelf spirit. Sometimes all it takes is to ultimately be a kid at heart, with a bit of a darker sense of humor than most have, to get it.
Then the real fun begins.
The “Wrecking Ball” parody is one of my favorites — Elf on the Shelf is a natural at riding a Christmas ornament, Miley Cyrus-style. There’s the scenario of Elf on the Shelf taking a hairdryer to Frosty the Snowman for a sinister morning chuckle. Elf on a Shelf also cannot be trusted with anyone’s toothbrush in the middle of the night.
Keep away from a razor and a heavy-sleeping dad and his beard, too.
For me, Elf on the Shelf is all in good fun. Even if it is a little creepy to think he or she is always watching. And judging. Like many kids out there, I grew up thinking Santa makes a gigantic list of children’s names and checks it twice to see who’s been naughty or nice. Then off in a sleigh ride around the world in one night he goes. So I don’t see a big difference in having a sneaky sidekick around to help keep manners in check for Santa’s impending arrival. The elf brings a certain amount of wit and whimsy to a home, and it never hurts to encourage them in kids, early and often.
Just in case there’s another comic in the family.
Plus, Elf on the Shelf is only around about a month, returning to the North Pole the night before Christmas until the next holiday season. That gives parents, and all those adorable kid-at-heart types, another 12 months to make sure their elf is full of new and wonderful surprises next year.
Something tells me there could be an Elf on the Shelf zombie apocalypse in my future.
April E. Allford thinks a girl Elf on the Shelf named Ro is in order. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.