Scout elves began as a tradition in Scandinavia hundreds of years ago, and recently became popular in the U.S. as a result of Carol Aebersold’s book The Elf on the Shelf. In the book, Aebersold shares the story of their family elf, Fisbee, who appeared during the holidays as a scout for Santa. Fisbee flies back to the North Pole each night to report on her daughter’s behavior. The elf reappears in a new place each morning, ready to watch and report back on that day’s activity.
Our elves, Jack and Julia, routinely come back each year on Thanksgiving. Jack first appeared in a mysterious package we found on our doorstep. A few years later, Jack arrived with a friend, a girl we named Julia. They occasionally bring treats, such as a new book or Christmas PJs, but, for the most part, they just hide in funny places or create cute scenes. They tend to raid the dollhouse and toy bins during the day, in preparation for the next day’s big reveal.
You can adopt an elf locally at Target, Barnes and Noble, or online through amazon.com. Once you receive your elf, you are asked to name him or her. You are also invited to register your elf at www.elfontheshelf.com. This website has many activities and games for kids to play. You can virtually tour the North Pole, write to Santa, register your elf and download apps. There’s even a movie based on the book, called An Elf’s Story, which was released last year and is available on the website.
There are few hard-and-fast rules. You can start this tradition whenever you wish. The book states that the elves tend to appear around the holidays, leaving wiggle room for you and your family, depending on how many nights you want the elves around. Yours might come on St. Nicks’ Day, as soon as Christmas decorations are up, once school is out or 12 days before Christmas. According to the book, though, their last night at your house is Christmas Eve, after which they fly back to Santa’s workshop to stay until next year. One rule we all must obey: Elves are not to be touched. If they are, their magic will disappear. Homes with small kids will likely find their elves in higher, harder to reach places.
There are websites that depict elf mischief and novel hiding places. I’ve found several on Pinterest. I’ve posted many more pictures of our elves at http://leprechauntricks.wordpress.com/.
Finally, it’s never too late to start. My friend Terry Rollman at Hawaii Home + Remodeling started last year with her twin teenage sons. Granted, their elf has a more mature sense of humor than ours, but what a fun way to bond over the holidays!
In addition to the Elf on the Shelf website, check out these other family fun holiday sites:
For the past 50 years NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been tracking Santa. Beginning Dec. 1st, you can, too. This site also has games and a Kids Countdown Village.
Check out the reindeer cam and watch live reindeer. Santa comes out three times a day to feed them. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot a turkey.
Parents should check the Portable North Pole site out in private at first. Once Santa learns if the kids have been naughty or nice, he can deliver a personalized video.
All you need are photos of family members to elf yourself. You can make e-cards and videos to send to family and friends. This is a perennial favorite at the Aucello house.
Want to start planning for next year? Check out the North Pole Experience. This is a magical portal to the North Pole located in Flagstaff, Arizona. I’m taking the kids this year and will let you know how it goes.