The Handbook
The Handbook

Most children spend the first eight years or so of their life worrying if they’re on Father Christmas’ naughty list. And in what I can only imagine is an excuse to terrify them even more, America has come up with this creepy, sorry I mean genius, Christmas tradition.

Elf on the Shelf has apparently been a thing across the pond since the 1970s, but it’s a relatively new concept in the UK given our lower tolerance for gimmicks. This year though, Elf on the Shelf has gone BIG. It seems us serious Brits have warmed to that little felt hat and big doe eyes.

If you’re not au fait with the little chap, let me explain… Elf, the cheeky looking doll, is apparently a “scout elf’ who sits on a shelf or somewhere in your home to keep an eye on how children are behaving. Each night, he heads back to the North Pole to tell Santa Claus who should be on the naughty list and who on the nice. It’s basically a ploy to get children to be good, and by the looks of things, it works. Whether that’s down to the sheer magic of it all or that creepy side eye he gives, I’m not sure.


It doesn’t sound all that believable, but then again, we’re taught to believe an old fat man squeezes down the chimney of every home in the world – even homes that don’t have a chimney (mind-blowing), to deliver presents all in one night. I guess at Christmas, anything is possible, especially if believing gets you a present at the end of it.

Despite the name, Elf doesn’t just sit on the shelf. Parents have to place him in a new part of the house every morning, in what can only be described as a 25 day long, tedious game of hide and seek. Furthermore, parents are encouraged to come up with creative ways for Elf to pop up, from the simple ‘hiding in the Christmas tree’ to the more elaborate ‘making snow angels out of four on the kitchen counter.’

This has understandably hit the Internet like a big mince pie to the face, with mums and dads vying for the best Elf on the Shelf pic and most impressive creative concept idea to put him in. A heap of memes, blog posts, Instagram pics and hashtags (there are a cool 3million+ Insta posts with #elfontheshelf attached to it) have followed. If only Elf were a real life influencer, he’d be bringing in the big bucks.

There’s also a wide selection of ‘grown-up’ pictures of Elf available on the Internet, I’m assuming a result of mum and dad finishing off the whisky they left out for Father Christmas, that include little Elf in some uncompromising positions. A gang bang with some Barbie dolls and Elf sniffing a white substance I’m pretty sure isn’t snow through a rolled up dollar bill, are just a couple. It’s all on the Internet for your viewing pleasure, go on, Google it.

Ok, so I’m hating on Elf a little here. Is he all that bad? Celebs like Kourtney Kardashian, Lily Aldridge and Busy Phillips have showcased their Elf skills on the web and love for the little guy.  While mum bloggers have started to tell, or show off, what they’ll be doing with Elf this year.

I don’t have children to impress yet but, if I’m honest, I’ll probably be that mum who wants to out-Elf all the other mums, dreaming up hilarious (read: finding them on Pinterest) settings to put him in.

And at the heart of the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon is simply good old fashioned fun. He gives parents a creative outlet, it may not be highbrow but it’s creative, he inspires children to be good (bonus) and encourages families to have a Christmas tradition that can be looked back on with fond memories.

Growing up, in keeping with family tradition, my brother and I would write our lists to Santa on Christmas Eve and ‘post’ them up the chimney. I always wondered how every year he got it bang on the money despite no prior notice to what present we wanted. Come to think of it, maybe the Elf had been watching all that time…


Looking for children’s Christmas gift ideas? Check out The Handbook gift guide, here.