Christmas Spirit: Redefining Elf On The Shelf

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Bonbon Break

It’s almost that time of year again. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be over and then little elves will start landing on shelves, where they’ll keep a watchful eye on our children and inspire an insane number of pins on Pinterest.  Mommas and poppas will either 1) have ambitious little elves who put Martha Stewart to shame, 2) feel
guilty for having “slacker” elves, or 3) roll their eyes and make snarky remarks about those with annoyingly crafty elves.

I admit it: Last year our elf – his name is Snuggle – was out of control.

Yes, that is our elf hanging from a candy cane swing and making s’mores. *Sigh* I had fun with it and the boys loved Snuggle’s escapades (“He’s naughty, Momma!”), but I may have gone overboard. By mid-December I was running out of steam and ideas.

I’m not sure I am up another year of crazy elf antics. But more importantly, at some point during the last holiday season, I decided I am just not down with the whole naughty-or-nice thing.  I wrote about that here, but the gist of it is I think it encourages kids to be “nice” for the wrong reasons and runs contrary to a holiday season that should
be about unconditional love and giving. So what the heck do I do about this elf whose job is presumably to tell Santa if my kids are behaving?!

I had a little chat with Snuggle and we have a new plan this year – one that lets me off the hook from finding ingenious new ways to pose him and encourages the boys to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas.
This year, Snuggle will arrive with a letter that says:

Hello boys!

I’m so glad to be back. I’ve sure missed you, but I’ve been having a great time with my friends at the North Pole. We are very busy getting ready for Christmas eve! 
Last year I caused a lot of mischief, but this year I have a very important job to do and I hope you’ll help me. Will you help me make CHRISTMAS MAGIC?! The world needs children just like you to show love and care for others. Each time you do something kind, just write it on one of these little ornaments and hang it on your special tree. If you fill your whole tree, that will be LOTS of magic! I’ll share your good deeds with Santa and the gang. Santa loves to hear about acts of kindness, and helping others will make you feel really happy too.
Here are some ideas for making Christmas magic. You can come up with your own ideas, too!
  • Bake cookies and bring them to the drop-in shelter
  • Collect toys you don’t need and donate them
  • Sharewith a friend
  • Hold the door for others
  • Draw a holiday card for a soldier overseas
  • Select a toy for Toys For Tots
  • Smile and say hello to someone new
  • Put coins in the Salvation Army kettle
  • Stand up for someone
  • Bring food to the food bank 

Love, Snuggle

With his letter, Snug will be bringing a little tree. I’m not sure yet if I’ll do something like this Giving Tree on I {Heart} Nap Time or just buy a miniature Christmas tree from the craft store. I don’t think it matters. What matters is that we find a way to focus the boys’ energy on the true meaning of the holiday season – unconditional love, caring for others, being with family – and away from behaving in order to get toys. Hopefully Snuggle will keep his mischief in check and I won’t have to clean toothpaste messages off the bathroom counter this year.

Now let’s not even get into the enormous story I’ve sold my kids with this whole elf thing. Trickery, what trickery?! I’m counting on them appreciating my effortsto make the holidays fun for them when they find out who Snuggle really is.





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  1. Dana says

    I absolutely LOVE this. I am so anti-elf on the shelf because of all of the things I have heard people do (no offense to MM of last year!). I am loving how you are changing up the message this year and encouraging your children to get into the true spirit of the season with their Elf. 
    You may have convinced me to not want to put my hands over my ears whenever people start talking about their elfs. LOVE it! 

  2. says

    This is so awesome! My friend Justine tipped me off to your post… We just got our first Elf this year and are only a few days in. So far our Elf has been pretty tame and I have loved watching how much fun my 9 year old son and 3 year old daughter are having with this new tradition. I really like your spin though and will keep it in mind for future years.

  3. Heather says

    Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)


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