When the Bialous family’s two Elf on the Shelf dolls return from the North Pole to their Massapequa home on the day after Thanksgiving, Stinkypants and Snowflake will each quarantine for 14 days in a jar with a countdown calendar on the lid.
Cathy Bialous, mom of 8-year-old twins Jonathan and Emily, says "Bravo!" to the topical twist on the elfin tradition, and not just because she’s a nurse. "It will save us 14 days of moving those lovely little critters," she jokes. Mom isn’t a total Scrooge — if her children can’t bear the quarantine, Bialous might allow the elves out, but only if they wear masks or take a COVID-19 test that she will administer.
Fellow mom Karyn O’Neill, 43, a crafter from Farmingdale, started selling quarantine jars to others for $8 each after she made one for her 7-year-old son Declan’s elf, and friends started asking for one. "I was joking with my cousin that this could be the best thing to come out of quarantine," she says.
Even Chanda Bell, the co-CEO of The Lumistella Co., which created The Elf on the Shelf, seems tickled by the quarantine plan, and approves of parents finding other fun ways to incorporate virus lessons into their elves’ escapades this holiday season. "It’s a pandemic. The whole world is affected, including the North Pole," she says. While children can feel reassured that elves are magical creatures who do not catch human diseases, the elves should set a good example by following recommended protocols, she contends.
"We have the opportunity to use a character that kids love to really bring messages like be kind to others and wear a mask. We have seen so many fun ideas," Bell says. The company posted a photo of an elf sitting next to a bathroom sink with its hand underneath the liquid soap pump and "WASH YOUR HANDS" scrawled on the bathroom mirror, and it offers free downloadable printable elf-sized masks.
Bell also says she hopes that when the elves pull off one of their favorite antics — creating chaos with toilet paper — they won’t waste too much of what became a precious commodity in 2020.
EXPECTING PANDEMIC PRANKS
Typically, The Elf on the Shelf arrives in family’s homes sometime during the week of Thanksgiving and stays until Christmas Eve. Each night the elves — referred to as Scout Elves — return to the North Pole to report back to Santa on whether the kids in the house have been naughty or nice. When they fly back each morning, the children expect to find them someplace new and often comical in the house, perhaps swinging from the dining room chandelier.
The new twist on elfin behavior has created a cottage industry for local crafters such as Patty Coppola, a grandmother from Massapequa who is making elf-sized cloth masks in holiday patterns. When she posted an offer to sell them for $4 each on Facebook parenting pages, she was so overwhelmed that she had to enlist her friend Coleen Colleluori of Bethpage to help her sew hundreds of the ¾ inch by 1 ½ inch masks.
Coppola says they feel like elves themselves because they are churning out so many — Coppola gets up every day at 4 a.m. to sew for two hours before work and, has made 300 masks so far. "They’re very tedious because they’re tiny," she says. "I’m willing to stay up and just keep working and working. I can sell 1,000, I can sell 2,000."
Alexandra Arora, 43, a stay-at-home mom from Seaford, started making masks for her 9-year-old twin boys’ elf and now sells them for $5 each at her Etsy store, Crafty Cove Designs. "It was important to me because kids need to have that relatability for what they’ve gone through this year. They have had to adjust to wearing masks all the time. This way they could see the elves are also doing it because it’s important. Everybody’s protecting each other," Arora says.
ZOOMING WITH RUDOLPH
Nancy Gonzalez of Bellmore started making elf quarantine boxes beginning with her daughter Sofia, 3, for the same reason. "I thought, 'Let me create something for her for the holidays so she can see her elf is following the same procedures she is," Gonzalez says. Karrie Anne Vitti, owner of Let's Craft in Westbury, is offering kits that include pandemic-related, elf-sized signs such as "I Zoomed with Rudolph last night. He wanted me to say hi" and "Can you sing Happy Birthday when you wash your hands for me?"
When the elves first arrive, they often bring treats for the kids, and Brown Butter Bakeshoppe of Islip Terrace is selling personalized elf cookies that are wearing masks, says co-owner Alycia Delaney.
"I think it’s just something different to give not a sense of fun but make it a little more normal that this is the life we’re living right now," Delaney says.
Some parents have chosen not to introduce the pandemic into their elf’s world. Nicole and Matt Fodera of Massapequa Park made that decision after Hudson, 6, expressed concern that he and younger brother Brady, 2, wouldn’t be able to open presents Christmas morning because they would have to be wiped down or set aside first in case Santa might be infected. "As far as they’re concerned, COVID doesn’t touch Santa," says Nicole, 41, an account manager.
Tianna’s Ferreira’s elf arrives at her Wantagh home even before Thanksgiving — on Nov. 17, Tianna’s birthday; this year she’ll turn 6. "Pretty much every year, we make it a big deal when the Elf comes back," says mom Tiffany Ferreira, 33, a stay-at-home mom. This year, Cupcake will return in a hot-air balloon — and she’ll be wearing a mask.
But beyond that, Ferreira says she doesn’t plan to incorporate the pandemic into Cupcake’s daily comings and goings. "I don’t feel like stressing that whole thing too much. If there’s an opportunity to focus on the good and happy times, I’d rather do that right now."