I have never been one to follow the crowd. Even though I am an introvert by nature, I tend to speak my mind and question authority (ask my husband…oh and my parents!). . . .and I am never ok with believing what the majority says. So! When I first heard about the Elf on the Shelf, I was skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, this little elf sounds like so much fun. It’s the type of fun I would love to have. I have some mischievous qualities to myself, and the elf would fit right into my life. I spent many minutes of my life dreaming up great ways for this little elf to be devious and sneaky. I mean. .. . .come on! I was the preschool teacher who took green paint and walked her fingers all over the classroom to make her preschoolers think the leprechauns had visited the classroom overnight. As a child, I had a wild imagination and still do, which has made me a “dreamer” as an adult. But I digress. I love this type of stuff!!!!! It could be a real obsession for me. My child would probably believe in all these things for the rest of her life because I would be THAT good. No really.
But then our daughter was born. Many of the “i have to’s” went out the door. They were either not important anymore or just plain stupid. The older she became, the more we started talking about how we would handle Christmas, halloween and all of our holiday traditions. Growing up, Christmas was all about Jesus, but we also included santa claus. Oh I loved santa claus. I loved him so much that I believed whole heartedly that he was real and that somehow God gave him special powers to do everything he did. That was until my 7th grade (you read that right) teacher asked everyone in the class, “so how did you find out santa claus was a fake?” WHAT?!?!?!? Oh yeah. I told you I had a very vivid imagination. There was no stopping it! I bet you’re wondering what my answer was. . . .I simply said, “I don’t remember” and went home to my parents with many questions. Ahem, excuse me? How can santa claus NOT be real? I mean. . . .God is ALL-POWERFUL, darn it! Santa claus could totally be REAL!!!!!! But he is not.
So as our daughter grew older, I realized that I couldn’t do santa claus the way he is traditionally “done” because I just couldn’t lie. I was in the middle of a great conflict. On one hand, I wanted our daughter to experience the magic of santa claus, but on the other hand I didn’t want to tell her an ongoing lie for years on end. I finally settled on a compromise because I am unable to completely let go of the wonderfulness of santa claus, but I also decided to not lie to my child about him. After all, I am a distant cousin of Abraham Lincoln, and we all know. . . .he could NEVER tell a lie. I come by it honestly. No pun intended. . . .
This year we bought a book that tells the story about St. Nick. If you don’t know the story/legend, you should read up on it. There are many different accounts of St. Nick, but all of them point to a few similar traits. St. Nick was a rich person. He was a giving person. And he was a Christian. Those were all the traits that I wanted my daughter to know about St. Nick, or Santa Claus. Every year we plan on talking about santa and how his giving spirit lives on. We will give her a gift that represents Santa claus’ giving spirit. We will still visit santa claus and have pictures taken. We will enjoy a bit of the magic minus the deception. We will watch the santa claus movies just like we watch movies about tinker bell and winnie the pooh. The one thing I have found to be true is that the imagination of a child is not dependent on our involvement. We don’t have to do a thing. They will still pretend and have imaginations that amaze us! I am sure she will still experience the “magic” of it all and will pretend he is real every once in a while. That’s ok with us!
So why do we choose to avoid the elf? It’s probably not the reason you’re expecting to hear. Sure. . . we don’t want to deceive our daughter, making her think the elf is REALLY reporting to santa claus and REALLY coming alive at night. But the truth is that we want to keep the main thing, the main thing (in the words of my wise mother). Christmas is not about how well you trim your tree or how many kiddie crafts you can fit into a 24 hour period. It is not about how mischievous your little elf is. It is not about how well you pretend santa claus is real. Christmas is about Jesus. So every tradition we build into Christmas as a family will be strongly rooted in Christ. I can find Christ in the story of St. Nick, but not so much in the Elf on the shelf. So while it is totally a fun idea, and I commend those of you who participate in it, it is not a tradition for us. And we are ok with that. If it is a tradition you have chosen and you enjoy it, go for it! Enjoy it, embrace it, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for your choice. Just make sure it is a tradition that you want and it is not a tradition that you are pressured into because “everyone else is doing it”. Make traditions with your children. They are memories that will last a lifetime!