I may or may not have announced on Facebook a couple of weeks ago: “If you post pictures of your Elf on the Shelf I will unfriend you for the month of December.” Partly to be funny, but partly out of spite I felt I needed to issue my warning. Some people like this “tradition” (Nobody was doing it five years ago so it’s not really that much of a tradition), but some people really despise it (me!). There are so many reasons I hate it: using weird bribery to get kids to behave, furthering the “I Believe” cult of people bearing their testimonies of Santa, and it does have such a creepy little face. Mostly, though, I hate this Elf on the Shelf thing because it symbolizes all the crazy stuff we do to ourselves during the holiday season. Somehow Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day have come together to create a completely bizarre tradition: an Elf that gets into crazy mischief every single night. As if buying presents, giving neighbor gifts, attending concerts and/or parties, making travel arrangements, decorating our houses, doing one or more advent calendars, and baking at least a few more times than we usually do isn’t enough. Now we have this Elf to worry about to.
I know that most of the people who do it say it’s a fun and harmless tradition. But it seems to be a bit overboard. It seems to be just one more thing to increase the chance of being in a bad mood come December 25th. I would just ask all the big proponents of the Elf movement how many times they’ve posted pictures of their Elf hijinx on Facebook, blogs or Instagram. Because it seems that the people who are most into the Elf are the ones who are most active in social media. Are they really doing it for their kids or are they doing it to impress everyone else?
Is the Elf on the Shelf really to blame? Or is it just a symptom of our runaway culture? Is everything about Christmas getting out of hand? I have to admit that a few years ago when I had had enough of “all this materialism” and decided to make every single Christmas present by hand for all our relatives that I became a stressed out basket case. That Christmas was sheer misery. I thought that by making everything I would somehow get in touch with the spirit of Christmas, only to find myself knitting and making soap at 3 am on several occasions.
Every year I think that I will streamline the holidays somehow. But three of the kids have concerts. The High School voice student recital being particularly painful, but it’s not like I can skip it and not hear my daughter sing. Same with the piano recital. And work parties (I’m sure my husband has memorized my diatribe about hating an evening spent with his drunk coworkers). But these are all things that must be done. The work Christmas party is number one on my husband’s list of necessary events.
Here I sit, though, staring at a hundred paper stars that I spent most of yesterday applying glitter to. They’re for the church Christmas party, which I am in charge of. Did I need to make a ton of glittery stars? I guess not, but you try coming up with centerpieces for a party with a teensy budget! Is it necessary or is this my personal Elf on the Shelf?
Is there hope for me and all the other frazzled parents or is just the reality that we have all created? Why am I even thinking that December should be any different? Where is this elusive holiday where all I need to worry about is helping others and feeling the love of Christ? Is this just a figment of our collective imagination, like a perfect wedding or a family reunion where nobody gets their feelings hurt? Maybe I just need to ratchet up my caffeine intake, get used to shopping at stores that are open 24-hours-a-day and accept Christmas in all it’s nutty insanity; elves, recitals and all.