October 21, 2017

Elf on the Shelf: Christmas Tradition


Many of the family traditions that we have adopted into our family have purpose and intentionality behind them; others are just plain crazy fun – like this one ( full tradition idea at bottom of post).

Meet Carl: Our Family Elf

(Thanks to the The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition from Amazon.)

This is one of those traditions that has made a notable impact in just two years.

I never thought that my kids would get lost in this imaginary fun SO much, but when our youngest asked throughout the year when “Carl” was coming back, I knew this was here to stay.
For us, Carl seems to return on December 1st (you choose the tradition behind his arrival).
This year, I forgot. I gasped in horror at my horrible Mommy moment, and ran to the attic to release Carl to his rightful place, then watched in delight as the kids woke up to find he had returned.
In the photos, I tried to recreate Emma’s reaction…obviously, it didn’t work, but she started screaming, jumping up and down while clapping her hands as fast as they would flutter, “Carl’s back, Mommy, Carl’s back…Christmas is coming.”

All the kids LOVE Carl, and my nephews are now asking when their Elf is coming. My older boys’ role is key in hiding him, and helping “Carl,” i.e. Mom, remember to move each night.
One night Carl “fell asleep” and didn’t switch spots, but what occurred from this was sheer wonder in the magic of this tradition.

My 9 year old daughter fell asleep on the sofa. My hubby was too tired to carry her up, so he just covered her up and left her. She slept through the night, and I never gave a thought to Carl. In the morning, I realized that Carl hadn’t moved, but I never said a thing. Our 9 year old explained to our 5 year old, “I was sleeping down here all night, so he must have known he couldn’t move until I went upstairs.”
The floors were even scrubbed vigorously yesterday by my daughter and nephews after my nephews touched Carl and they knew that was a “no – no.”

On their own, they started cleaning to try and make penance for what they had done (I was giggling so hard, since I hadn’t said a word)!!

Sheer JOY at Carl’s return!

Here’s the concept from “The Elf on the Shelf.”

Honestly, our family focuses on the real story of St. Nick and doesn’t do much with Santa, so when I was given this Elf as a gift, it was out of our typical realm.

I think it would be precious to do this same idea with a snow man or even hide a wise man each night and twist the tradition idea to have the wise man searching for the baby Jesus. Then on Christmas morn, the wise man could find his rightful place in the nativity scene (just Jen’s two cents. ๐Ÿ™‚

The first time our elf arrived at our home, the children officially adopted him by giving him a name. Each year he would arrive around the holidays. His sole responsibility was to watch the children’s behavior and report it to Santa (St. Nick) each night. The next morning after the children awoke, they discovered the elf had returned from the North Pole and was now resting in a new and different place.(That’s the real fun for parents, is embracing the creative aspect of all the different places your elf shows up.)
My children would race each other out of bed to try and be the first to spy him in his new position.

Over the years the tradition was perfected and rules were introduced. For example, to better preserve his mystique the children were not allowed to touch him but talking to him was a different matter all together. My children shared many secrets with the elf, and while he was under strict order not to talk to him, the elf was under no such orders where grown-ups were concerned.

Unwittingly, the tradition provided an added benefit: it helped the children to better control themselves. All it took was a gentle reminder that the “elf is watching,” for errant behavior to be modified.

Start this one next year – you won’t be disappointed.

I have been trying to catch up with my Christmas ideas/traditions all week, browse around and find something new for this year or next. More to come, including our all time favorite Jesse Tree for the Advent Season.


  1. those things are soo cute, my mom has some that are real old…i think they are making replicas of them now….anyway cute stuff, really cute pics!!


    Maddiegirlrules Reply:

    SOOOOOOO CUTE!!!! Me and my sister just got one and can’t wait to open it


  2. I just LOVE the elf on the shelf tradition. I wonder if Lexi is too old now to have some fun with it.


  3. Kitty Scraps says:

    What a wonderfully sweet tradition!


  4. I love the elf on the shelf. My kids are too old to start it as I didn’t find out about it until recently. How sad ๐Ÿ™

    Lisa Q


  5. Musings of a Homeschooling Mom says:

    Where’d you find Carl? He is so cute! I need to find us one. I think the kids would have a blast with it!


  6. HeathahLee says:

    I wish I had started doing this when Kiddo was really little. I think he might think it’s “babyish” (as he says) now. You know how those “tweens” are! Ah, to have a little one again!


  7. What a fun tradition! Your children will speak of it for years to come, and perhaps start a similar one down the road in their own families. . .


  8. what a great idea! I have a 6 yo, 2 yo and 3 mo. old- the 6 & 2yr old would LOVE that! Thanks for sharing! and I have told you before I LOVE your blog! such great decorating ideas! keep it up!


  9. Love this tradition, I will start looking for an elf…maybe I’ll find one on clearance! Anything that get them to behave.


  10. The White Family says:

    We love our Elf “Charlie” as well. Your kids are so good as to not touch him when he is so low. I think that my 2 girls just can’t seem to resist. Great idea about the Wise Man. I thin k that we are going to try to phase out this whole Santa thing. I have been waiting on your promised post of the Jesse Tree. I have been thinking about starting one for next year and I can’t wait to hear how you all do it. God Bless!


  11. I can’t wait to do this when I have kids. It looks like so much fun!


  12. AHHH, really, AHHH love that your kids were so happy for Elf’s return. How cuuuute is that! Where did you find your elf?


  13. That is an awesome tradition. It sounds like the kids really enjoy it. Thanks for sharing!


  14. I love Carl! I especially love his name. I wish my children were a little younger because I know this would have been a hit with them!


  15. I have been seeing this around the blogworld…I think I may have to get myself an “elf”..it is so cute and what a fun tradition it is! Your kids look so happy!
    -sandy toes


  16. aww Jen, thats wonderful, and he is a cute huh?! Now you’ll have to find 2 more to send of with the kids when they have their own trees..Who knows, this might just be done till Jesus comes back!! ๐Ÿ™‚ What a great legacy, hehehee!! LA


  17. Ruby Red Slippers says:

    I think you saw our post on Zookie, the elf-thanks to our cousin, we have the elf on the shelf too! It is so true about the kids and how excited they are about it… we also are not big Santa people, but I just love the elf thing…just fun in a box!


  18. Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality says:

    How sweet your elf, Carl is, Jen! Hope your family has a wonderful Christmas!


  19. Beth@Pages of Our Life says:

    I love it! I think this is a great tradition and can see why your little girl is so excited.


    So, have you recovered yet from your trip?

    Hope your family has a relaxing and wonderful holidays and….I am really blessed to have met you this year. Big Smile!


  20. Bella Casa says:

    How cute! I need something like that, hmmmm….

    I hope you have a beautiful Christmas!



  21. We do that! This was our first year and the kids have LOVED it… especially Mikayla. They named ours “Candy Cane”… he has been a lot of fun. The kids know not to touch him and have enjoyed searching for him every morning. Now we just have to wait another year before he gets into more mischief. ๐Ÿ™‚


  22. So sweet to read about your elf tradition. We too have a whimsical little elf (named Cashew) who has been visiting our family each December since our children were little. Cashew has several cousins ~ Pistachio, who visits my oldest daughter and her son; Mac A. Damia visits another daughter’s children and Al Mond visits yet another daughter and her children. Our forth daughter will no doubt share this same tradition with her children some day.

    Thanks for sharing your elf story.


    Sarah Reply:



    I love the nut names!!! The next one will have to be P. E. Can ;-P


  23. AnneMarie says:

    fantastic idea!!! one of my dd’s friend’s house did thisand I did not get it.. do now!!
    love the idea of the wise men searching…


  24. Hey! I just ordered our Elf from “Elf Magic” and can’t wait for it to get here so we can start a similar tradition. I looked at the “Elf on the Shelf,” and while I love the concept, my friend told me about Elf Magic, and I like their elves so much better. They just look more cuddly and approachable (to me!) Anyway, looking forward to having fun with the little elf, as we don’t do much concerning Santa, either. (Yet. Don’t quote me on that.)


  25. I fell in love with the Elf on a Shelf as soon as I heard about it, but unfortunately couldn’t find one anywhere in our area. Of course it was the beginning of December and too late to order one online, so at our house a snowman visits and reports back to Santa every night. The snowman left a letter explaining why he was there and the “rules” on the table, so everyone would understand what was going on, and about once a week Santa sends a letter commenting on the snowman’s reports. We’ve been doing this for about 5 years now, and ever since Thanksgiving was over, our 4yo DD has been asking constantly when we think the snowman will be here, DS age 6 is worried because we recently moved and maybe the snowman won’t know. I can’t believe what a magical tradition this has become in our family. Thanks for sharing your story, it’s good to hear other families enjoy this as much as we do.


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