Elf on a Shelf Doll by Michael Kappel

Why I don’t understand Elf on the Shelf

Or #haveIlosttheChristmasmagic

As the years creep up on me I think the only way I’m ever going to have children is if I shack up with a woman whose husband has been sent down for murder so I have to help raise her kids.

This lack of children is probably why I’m going to say the most controversial thing you’ll ever read in Fiskal Policy: I don’t understand Elf on the Shelf.

Elf on the Shelf by Jeff Djevdet
The elf is watching. It’s always watching. But it isn’t clear from this shot whether it is on a shelf or a table (“Elf on the Shelf” by jeffdjevdet is licensed under CC BY 2.0 – courtesy of speedpropertybuyers.co.uk)
diy elf on the shelf by mom2sofia
If the elf is a little naughty sometimes but is expecting children to be good then it is no better than Dominic Cummings (“diy elf on the shelf” by mom2sofia is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Elf on a Shelf by Michael Kappel
For families who aren’t satisfied having just the creepy looking elf, there is also a book telling the story of Santa’s spy (“Elf on a Shelf 025” by Michael Kappel is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

It is an ugly plastic Christmas decoration (I would say toy but children cannot touch it) which – the story goes – is actually one of Father Christmas’s elves and spies on children. Then, while the children are asleep, he reports back to the white bearded big bellied toy maker about whether they have been naughty or nice.

Sinister much? If it was a feature film it would be darker than one of Walt Disney’s Dalmatian coat-making, fair maiden-killing villains.

To keep it light, instead of just sitting on a shelf watching and plotting, many parents these days come up with adventures for the plastic creature and journalists write stories about it.

There are probably even people fighting about it on Mumsnet.

I read somewhere (maybe on the Elf on the Shelf website) that the elf teaches children self-control and I really question whether that’s the case.

Surely teaching children life skills is the responsibility of parents and is something they should learn all year round, not just during the few weeks of the year when a plastic elf is, supposedly, watching their every move.

Elf on the Shelf by Melissa Hillier
If the boy’s t-shirt is to be believed then Father Christmas is just Elf on the Shelf’s line manager and it all comes back to Jesus (Elf on the Shelf” by Melissa Hillier is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Elf on a Shelf Doll by Michael Kappel
Elf on the Shelf has only been around since 2005 (and was inspired by a Scandinavian holiday tradition from the 1970s) but looks as creepy as the Victorian dolls you occasionally see on Antiques Roadshow (“Elf on a Shelf Doll” by Michael Kappel is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)
elf-on-the-shelf by Dennis Goedegebuure
Maybe the elf is in the bathroom to ensure the family brush their teeth and wash behind their ears. It definitely needs to give them some privacy (“elf-on-the-shelf” by Dennis Goedegebuure is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With this in mind, if I wore a hat (I don’t because it would mess up my hair) I would take it off to parents who have incorporated Elf on the Shelf into their festive traditions, not as a watchful spy but just as an old friend who has come to say hi.

After all, children have had enough to deal with this year without being fearful they will only get a lump of coal at Christmas because they did not finish their dinner on December 8th (especially when you look into the reasons why they didn’t eat it all. From the Elf’s point of view it might seem like a naughty thing to do but the real reason they did not finish is because their Dad had made an inedible tea and they were actually being polite – and nice – by not saying anything about it).

If the function of the Elf becomes simply being an old friend rather than a dastardly spy then maybe the real reason I don’t understand it is because as the years go on Christmas becomes less and less magical.

Instead of childhood wonder and looking forward to fun days ahead it is more a time of looking back and realising you did not achieve the things you had dreamed of when you were young enough to have that sense of wonder.

Nowadays it is worrying about getting fatter and stressing about whether the Christmas presents you’ve bought are going to be liked.

2012 Elf on the Shelf - Snowy by mbaylor
Is the elf trying to get an electric shock or is it just being mischievous? (“2012 Elf on the Shelf – Snowy” by mbaylor is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Elf on a Shelf Misbehaving by Michael Kappel
I’m not sure how old the elf is supposed to be but I’m sure it is too young to be touching knives (“Elf on a Shelf Misbehaving” by Michael Kappel is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)
2012 Elf on the Shelf - Snowy popcorn by mbaylor
How is it going to manage to eat popcorn if it cannot fit the food in its mouth? (“2012 Elf on the Shelf – Snowy” by mbaylor is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

It is thinking with a sense of foreboding about the things to come in life.

But this year yuletide will come after days, weeks and months where many people haven’t seen their families.

So there will be an immense happiness, and that is what we should all focus on – and then embrace 2021 in ways you have only seen in “those” kinds of movies.

After all, after the one you’re reading now there are only two more episodes of Fiskal Policy until the new year – because this is the new way we measure time.

Stay safe for another week!