Sunday, November 29, 2015

Elf on a Shelf - Christmas Tradition or Clever Gimmick?

I had to research something I've seen appearing on store shelves around Christmas and have noticed for a number of years now. It hasn't always existed. I know that for a fact because I have pretty much always existed.
On the internet, Elf on a Shelf  is called a "Christmas Tradition". Really? To me, and to Merriam Webster, a tradition is custom or belief handed down from generation to generation. How many generations have there been since 2005? This is when the elf first appeared in a story by Carol Aebersold.

As the story goes, the elf watches children in their home and reports back to Santa each night. Then he flies back and shows up someplace else in the house the next day, creating a game of hide and go seek for the family. Families can also adopt their elf by giving him a name and writing it and the adoption date on the back of the box. The marketing has certainly proved brilliant. There are all kinds of secondary items available for purchase including new outfits for your adopted elf...shades of the old cabbage patch doll.

Over the years, this item has received as many accolades (book of the year, toy of the year) as it has criticisms. It has been suggested that this toy creates a "big brother is watching" type of environment and causes children to become acclimatized to, and unbothered by being spied on.

To me, this is a bit of a ridiculous exaggeration and fear mongering. First of all, how is it different from "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake"? It certainly is no worse than terrorizing children with Krampus. (more on that in another upcoming blog)

I don't object to new toys or new ideas. I don't even mind if this eventually becomes a tradition in families. Just don't call it a tradition after only ten years in existence. Next thing we know it'll be called an "iconic" toy.


A number of years after the beginnings of the elf on the shelf, came another toy, this time for the Jewish population. It started as a joke between Neal Hoffman (creator) and his wife. It was called "Mensch on a Bench".

Apparently, Mensch stays up to watch over the menorah, but if kids misbehave, he will hold on to the centre candle and not allow them any gifts. I believe this even made an episode of Shark Tank which helped to launch the toy. Who wouldn't want one of these adorable Menschies after seeing it?

There was a humorous editorial cartoon in the Northumberland News about a year ago. It kind of describes the end result of all this extraneous "tradition" perfectly. Kind of makes me glad I'm well beyond these seasonal pressures with my children or am I?
Apologies to the cartoonist. I can't make out the name and have googled until my eyes fell out
but I am unable to locate the original or the owner of this
cartoon in order to give credit.

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