Christmas caters to little children. The endless mythology about Santa and also the countless fights over renowned toys all facility on pass Christmas cheer to another generation of tiny people who have yet to establish that whatever is a lie.

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One of the most well-known lies to tell children in current years has been the legend of the Elf ~ above the Shelf. Here"s everything you must know.

It began with a children"s book

The Elf ~ above the Shelf: A Christmas legacy is a children"s book, composed by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. Self-published in 2005, the rhyming publication tells the story the a team of Santa"s elves that hide the end in houses around the nation to clock children and decide if they room naughty or nice. The book quickly ended up being an extension of the Santa Claus Christmas fable. In 2008, it additionally won the publication of the Year compensation from an imaginative Child Awards.

In 2008, the rise of the elf began. The Elf ~ above the Shelf joined Facebook, and also Aebersold and also Bell, the authors, went on a book tour. The elf character began picking up momentum, and by 2012, he was a rise in the Macy"s Thanksgiving job Parade. The Elf on the Shelf has been a best-seller every year due to the fact that 2013.

The book says the at night, the elf flies earlier to the north Pole come tell Santa how children are behaving, before returning come their homes to hide. Thus, the elf plays a game of hide-and-seek with children, that look for your elf in a different spot in their home each day.

The book only sets increase one ascendancy that youngsters must follow so that the elf deserve to do that job: "Please execute not touch me. My magic might go, and also Santa won"t hear every I"ve checked out or ns know."

After Christmas is over, the elf flies ago to the phibìc Pole, may be to spend time v Santa till Thanksgiving the next year. Nobody ever seems to talk about why the many efficient distribution system because that this Santa surveillance racket is sold in significant department stores, or why the elves simply started getting here in 2005, however there you go.


The elf in the Macy"s Thanksgiving day Parade. (Brad Barket/Getty)

With the publication comes a toy — and encouragement the parental deceit

When parents purchase the book for your children, the comes with a little plush elf that they space invited to usage to reenact the events of the book. It"s an opportunity for parental to placed their lying an abilities to the test, to check out if they can convince their kids this elf is real, lives in your home, and communicates v Santa. In 2007, Jennifer Garner was photographed carrying an Elf on the Shelf box; shortly after, the Today present aired a segment about the toy and sales began to skyrocket.

You have the right to buy the elf with "brown skin tone" or "light skin tone" and as a young or a girl.

You can "personalize" your elf

You have the right to name your elf everything you want. As the book explains, being named is what allows elves to come to be powered through Christmas magic and fly back and soon to the phibìc Pole. The book encourages family members to develop a small birth certificate for the elf v its name and the day of that "adoption."

Having trouble thinking of a name? desire to teach her children around peer pressure, society media, and also conformity? These are some popular names because that elves, follow to Pinterest:


A list of argued elf names. (Pinterest)

The toy deserve to breed vain (and potentially feelings the inadequacy)

Because the elf is supposed to it is in "alive" and also watching youngsters to watch if they"re mischievous or nice, this toy basically requires parents to move it to a new location every night. There are whole Pinterest board of concepts for just how to creatively ar your elf in your residence to happiness your youngsters (and make your Instagram pendant envious).


The elf in the silverware drawer. (Pinterest)


The elf renders a grocery list. (Pinterest)

This deserve to cause included holiday tension for a parent v young children. And on height of the actual work of remembering to relocate the elf around, there deserve to be pressure in certain social one to make her elf do the most interesting, creative, and also performative things, so the you have the right to shame and also humiliate the elves of your children"s friends.

The pressure has also led some parents to adopt drastic procedures like saddling their elf v a serious case of the flu or a broken leg simply to get some relief indigenous the nightly elfin repositioning — not specifically the stuff warm holiday memories room made of.

"Is it any kind of wonder that this kind of vacation madness, which dovetails through every strain of guilt mother feel end their domestic imperfections, coupled with the catch-22 that if you perform your job right, your youngsters will never thank you because that it (because every these goodies come from the Elf!), occasionally leads to a backlash?" Kate Tuttle created for the Atlantic in 2012.

The nursing benefits room iffy

As a education tool, the Elf ~ above the Shelf is an in similar way controversial. The story makes clear that Santa is liven at the north Pole and unable to clock every kid in the totality world, so the elf has been sent out to execute his dirty job-related for him. The elf serves as a tangible reminder that youngsters are supposed to be "nice," not "naughty," and also some parents use the elf together a means to self-control their kids by reminding them that the "elf is always watching."

Yet this tactic comes through its own set of issues. As Petula Dvorak created for the Washington write-up in 2012:

It"s a Faustian deal. First, you get this amazing disciplinary tool. My tiny heathens soon turned right into angels the moment I said, "The Elf is watching." Not prefer the abstract "Santa is watching."This to be a real, really thing, staring down at them through dead eyes, perched ~ above the curtain rod, then the bookshelf, climate swinging from the chandelier. I was start to are afraid withdrawal come January.

Theoretically, teaching your youngsters to it is in "nice" in order to meet an imaginary elf may not assist them identify right from wrong yet rather teach them come perform based upon the promise that rewards. (One supposes parents can just save the elf game going year-round, but that sound exhausting and seems favor it has the potential come backfire once your children realize their moral center was started upon a toy.)

The elf is a symbol of the security state disguised together a children"s toy

"I watch and report ~ above all that you do!" the elf alerts in The Elf ~ above the Shelf, adding that "the indigenous will gain out if you damaged a rule." This sounds pretty familiar!

"Having been molded through this period of NSA overreach, Snowden, Wikileaks and also Anonymous, what bothers me most is the inviting Elf on the Shelf right into the residence unnecessarily extends surveillance society into a ar that need to be complimentary of it," Alex Steed composed in a tower for the Bangor day-to-day News in 2014. "Santa Claus is a myth that at ideal represents generosity at its finest. However with the elf, we select to emphasize his surveillance. The is really weird."

Some discover the an extremely rules the the elf "game" disturbing. As digital modern technology professor Laura Pinto and also co-author Selena Nemorin composed in a paper published by the Canadian center for plan Alternatives:

he hands-off "play" request by the elf is minimal to recognize (but no touching!) The Elf ~ above the Shelf every morning, and acquiescing come surveillance during waking hrs under the elf"s watchful eye. The Elf on the Shelf controls every parameters that play, who can do and touch what, and also ultimately attempts to dictate the child"s behavior outside the time provided for play.

The toy, lock write, "blurs the line between play time and also real life" by dint that the elf"s never-ending security (at least throughout the Christmas season).

As Colleen Leahy writes for Fortune, "The Elf on the Shelf embodies, the sees you once you"re sleeping/He knows when you"re wake up — currently disturbing come the pessimistic adult or Santa-fearing child." and even more than the Christmas song, the toy raises a thorny issue: What does that teach children when you permit them to think they are being watched at all times and that this is at some point for your benefit? At the very least to Pinto and also Nemorin, it means we"re setup them up for "dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures."

Plus, the elf bring up questions about security in ~ private residences that can even scare some children. "Why inject a keep in mind of fear and also suspicion right into a season and also a vacation that space meant come be about love, togetherness, and forgiveness?" Tuttle wrote.

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This year has actually been hard enough. Now more than ever, we need the flexibility to reap the holidays there is no the specter that big-government security in our houses — no matter just how whimsically packaged.