Firstly, I assure you I am not a Christmas Scrooge. But when it comes to the Christmas “Elf on the Shelf” then all I can say is Bah Humbug! For those of you who are lucky enough to ask the question “What’s an Elf on the Shelf?” then all I can say is THANK CHRIST YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS.
I myself have only just recently come across it, mostly from seeing Buzzfeed articles about it linked on Facebook, and stories being told at Stormaggedon’s playgroup. But it was this little article that certainly piqued my interest. For I had a secret. I hated the idea. But you know, Mothers. They love this kind of
garbage tradition setting trends. And if you’re not totally into doing this kind of thing for your own child, you’re some kind of monster then that’s fine and, you just need to find your own traditions.
In a nutshell, Elf on the Shelf is a spy for Santa, who is popped on your child’s shelf at the beginning of December, essentially to watch over them and report back to Santa on their good behaviour and equally their wrong doings. Thus introducing our children to the Orwellian nightmare that is fast becoming our dystopian future. Fair enough, they should be prepared. But as if that wasn’t bad enough, the Elf starts acting like something out of a horror film, moving about just as we take our eye off them for a moment, creating havoc and mischief. Shudder.
Even The Simpson’s Christmas special jumped on the send-up bandwagon this year with their version of Elf on the Shelf, with Maggie being given a Gnome in your Home, complete with promises that it’ll nibble her little fingers off if she misbehaves. Obviously her reaction to this was that of a normal child suffering nightmares, refusing to sleep, then destroying her toy in a murderous act of butchery.
Now I can certainly hear some of you complaining that I might be trashing a good thing. “Oh come on now, look how cute and adorable it is! We’re bringing the whimsy back into Christmas. Why do you hate me for that!” Firstly, I have no problem with whimsy. I think it’s a wonderful thing. Setting up cute scenes involving the elf for your children to discover the next morning can be quite fun. It’s the whole “We are watching your every move, SO YOU BETTER BE GOOD, or else Santa won’t bring you ANY PRESENTS!” that really gets to me. And it’s the fact that the elf seems to be there for a parent’s entertainment at the expense of their own kids that I’m not all that comfortable with. I’ve heard stories of parents setting up scenes that involve the elf stealing presents from under the tree, unwrapping gifts, eating food and moving toys around. And laughing gleefully about how angry and upset their children got the next morning when they discovered the shenanigans. Now, I perfectly understand how hilarious it can be when a child reacts in such a fashion to something that is clearly not real. But that’s because we are adults. We can see it’s not real. They are children and they BELIEVE it. Because we perpetuate the myth of Santa, they absolutely and faithfully believe that a fat man in a suit breaks into their house once a year and leaves presents. To put it another way, Santa is scary enough to a lot of kids. We don’t need to add to that fear with a Chucky like elf with a life of its own running around the house at night. Seriously, parents complain enough about their kids never sleeping. Why are you making it worse for yourself?
Then of course there’s the Dads out there “ruining” the fun and “Not taking the Elf seriously”. Yet another reason why I hate the internet sometimes. Once again forcing the idea that dads are so useless that they can’t get a simply task right, and assuming that MUM’S CAN’T BE THIS COOL!
The internet seems quite divided at the moment about “lying” to children over the whole Santa ethos. Should we really be lying to them? Should we tell them the truth, that Santa isn’t real? How will children ever learn to trust their parents if we keep tricking them into believing such nonsense? These questions frankly do my head in. Can’t we just let Santa be? It doesn’t have to be about naughty and nice. It doesn’t have to be about abject surveillance by an elf. Why can’t we just let Santa be the whimsical part? Do we really need to add the elf? Can’t Santa just be a jolly and generous man who bring toys to children once a year. Why do we have to add the “only nice children” and “be good, or Santa will bring you coal instead of presents” part? On an aside note, considering how far back the legend of Santa goes, wouldn’t bringing coal to a relatively poor family have been a blessing in Europe during the winter? Who cares about toys when you’re freezing to death right? Anyway, I digress…
I get the desperation of parents. Your kids have been acting up all year and you’ve had enough, so you use the idea of Santa to try and claw back some obedience and respect. But do we really have to use Christmas this way? Stormy was playing up the other day and the words “Stop being naughty or Santa won’t bring you any presents” were on the tip of my tongue. But I bit them back. I didn’t want that to become what Christmas was about. Being good for the sake of reward. How am I supposed to teach him gratitude, and generosity and the spirit of giving if Christmas has “an angle” to it all? That shouldn’t be the point.
So if you’re looking for tradition this year and the Elf seems to be your thing, then fine, leave it to the shenanigans at night. Whimsy for the sake of whimsy if fine. But leave out the spying bullshit. Though really if you’re after creatures wreaking havoc at night, then I thoroughly suggest getting on the Dinovember bandwagon. That’s just top notch tradition right there.
For my family, we’ll be continuing a tradition that I only just started last Christmas. The Christmas Eve box.
A new pair of PJs to wear that night, a lovely new book to read, and a cute soft toy to play with (or when he’s older some hot chocolate and marsh-mellows to eat and drink under the Christmas Tree as we read). Now that is whimsy.