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Why I won't put an Elf on my shelf

Has the Elf on the Shelf taken over

Has the Elf on the Shelf taken over more than just a shelf in your house? Answer truthfully -- and remember, Santa's watching. Photo Credit: AP

This post original ran in December 2013.

Call me Scrooge.

You can even shout, "Bah, humbug!" when you pass me on the street. But it doesn't change the fact that when it comes to Christmastime at my house, we just don't "do the Elf."

I reminded my two daughters of this a few weeks ago when they returned home to share what their elementary school's resident Elf on the Shelf, a plastic-and-cloth doll named Sailor, had been up to. Apparently, he'd been hiding inside a locked display that typically showcases student artwork -- and then magically moved on to another location!

"How does he do it?" my 5-year-old asked.

"I don't know," replied my 9-year-old. "But how come we don't have one?"

I sighed heavily before I supplied my unconvincing answer, one that has been met these last few years with disdain.

"Different families have different traditions," I repeated. "And we just don't do that one."

"But it's sooo much funnn," pleaded my kindergartner. "Puhleeze?"

"Sorry, girls," I said, my firm tone implying that the topic was closed. "We have other ways to get ready for Santa."

Little do my girls know, the illustrious Elf has existed only since 2005. Elf on the Shelf began as a simple story book about a magical elf who acts as Santa's helper, taking residence in family homes, flying back to report who's naughty and nice to St. Nick, and then returning the following morning in a new spot. The book comes with the doll, and it's the kids' job to locate their Elf (which they name), but never touch him, as his magic spell can be broken.

In a handful of years, that little Elf has garnered worldwide attention, sales in the millions, and a jaw-dropping social media presence whose Facebook friends and Twitter followers rival the likes of any A-list celebrity. So, why must I buy in?

Like any parent, I'd do most anything to make my kids happy. And lately, they've become mesmerized by their friends' Elf tales that not only involve Herculean efforts by parents, but enlisting the "help" of other toys. Really?

In response to these daily reports, I launch into my laundry list of fun and festive ways we count down to Dec. 25: filling our Advent calendar with Hershey's Kisses, hunkering down to watch TV classics about Rudolph and Frosty, as well as lesser-known specials like "Ziggy's Gift" and "Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas."

But before you start calling me names or thinking I'm a terrible parent because I'm denying my kids pure, unadulterated bliss in this joyous season, I'd like to argue my case.

In these last weeks, I've heard of parents waking early to re-position their home's Elf, brainstorming elaborate schemes to surprise and sometimes shock their children, and then taking to Pinterest to capture their creativity. There's even an app to remind you to reset your Elf, lest the children find him in the same place as yesterday! I knew technology would come in handy someday.

But seriously, don't we have enough going on in the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Along with the Elf stories, parents talk about frantically trying to fill gift lists, wrap presents and write cards. It seems the Elf is just another item to check off on the holiday to-do list.

Maybe I wouldn't be so perturbed if there weren't a massive marketing campaign behind the Elf. What started as a bedtime story has morphed into a slew of themed products, from pajamas and night-lights to cookie plates and milk glasses. The Elf even inspired The Mensch on a Bench, introduced this year for Hanukkah.

For those who do take pleasure from doing the Elf with their kids, and don't find it a chore to concoct daily adventures for Santa's little friend, I commend your tireless efforts. But I won't be joining the club.

Instead, you can find me helping my girls write letters to Santa, treating them to carols sung by Bing Crosby and Burl Ives, checking out our neighbors' holiday displays, and then settling in to read Clement Moore. Those time-honored traditions will be around long after the Elf is collecting dust, and they don't cost a dime -- or involve logging on to Instagram.

So, ask yourself: Has the Elf taken over more than just a shelf in your house? Answer truthfully -- and remember, Santa's watching.

Blogger Pamela Brill lives in Northport.