What's the Elf on the Shelf Story? We've Got All The Details about This Fun Holiday Tradition

·2 min read

If you're the parent of young kids, you've probably heard all about the phenomenon known as The Elf on the Shelf that takes over during the month of December. Instagram feeds fill up with clever and over-the-top Elf on the Shelf ideas, and kids delight in the tradition of discovering their elf each morning. If you don't have small children waking up early to search for their elf or if you're considering adopting a Scout Elf into your family, you might have some questions about exactly what you're signing up for, like when does the Elf on the Shelf come for Christmas (and when does he leave), and are there any elf rules you need to follow (there are!)?

The tradition began in 2005 as a children's book by mother/daughter duo Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell that comes packaged with a Scout Elf (there's a boy and girl elf version, as well as different skin tones). Since then, millions of the kits have been sold, and elf business has expanded into clothing, accessories, pets, movies, and more. But caring for an elf is actually pretty simple.

What Is the Elf on the Shelf Story?

The book explains that the Scout Elves come down from the North Pole during Scout Elf Return Week (typically November 24 through December 1) to help Santa keep tabs on his naughty/nice list. The elf arrives in a certain spot and watches the children in the home. Each night, the elf returns to the North Pole to report his findings to the big guy. When Santa arrives to deliver presents on Christmas Day, the elf returns with him to the North Pole, not to be seen again until the next year.

Photo credit: Facebook / The Elf on the Shelf
Photo credit: Facebook / The Elf on the Shelf

What Are the Elf on the Shelf Rules?

The rules are simple! When the elf arrives for the first time, the family should read the book together and then gift the elf a name (stumped? We've got a list of Elf on the Shelf names to get you started!). Once the elf is in position, it's important that the children do not touch him, or he will lose his magic. The kids can talk to the elf, or give him a letter to take back to Santa. But most importantly, they should be on their best behavior.

Photo credit: The Elf on the Shelf
Photo credit: The Elf on the Shelf

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Some elves are more active than others, creating mischief or getting into elaborate situations when they return each night. Others are more subdued and simply move from place to place each day. It just depends on their personality! Santa says that it's best if no one touches the elf, but parents can intervene in certain cases (say, the dog grabs the elf from his hiding spot!) Just send a note to Santa letting him know what happened.

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