Call Me A Grinch :: Why We Will Never Elf on the Shelf

The Christmas spirit is undoubtedly in the air. Lights in the neighborhood have been strung, Christmas music is on the radio on repeat, and we’ve received one too many Black Friday sale emails from our favorite (or not so favorite) retailers. With the season, comes an overwhelming amount of to-do’s, from reviewing Christmas shopping lists and fighting with calendars for extra time. If you’re anything like my family, you’ll have a fun virus or two to deal within those dates too. However, there is one thing that will not ruin my Christmas peace and that is the love-to-hate Elf, also known as Elf on the Shelf.

What cruel and malicious sadist created such an idea? For all my friends out there who recently watched Trevor Noah’s stand-up on Netflix – if there ever was an example of freudenschade, this is it. (For those who are not in the know, freudenschade is a German word meaning to take pleasure out of the misfortune of others.) Christmas magic you say? I couldn’t disagree more. You’re telling me that we are voluntarily committing to do something (namely to move an elf around all of your house and stage him for some creative tomfoolery mishap) every single night during the busiest season of our lives? I can’t imagine anything more tortuous.

Maybe I’m scarred a little. My parents were the type to tell young and impressionable Katie that Santa was watching me in the dead middle of summer so I better do everything my parents tell me, like put on my seatbelt. Having an odd little elf constantly moving throughout the night, with his beady little eyes watching every move is more like a Toy Story horror movie than a fun way to remind my children that Santa is watching.

My friends who have embraced this tradition have told me similar things: it’s fun for the first year or two or three, by year five they are questioning why they ever agreed to such a long-term commitment. One question some have asked: How do I get out of this?! Because at that point, children have grown up with this creature and have all elf expectations. It is not enough to simply move the elf – they need to plan some sort of shenanigans inspired crime scene to accompany his new location.

If you haven’t begun this tradition, readers, it is okay not to start it. Yes, we need to make all the Christmas magic for our kiddos, but there are so many other ways to do so. (For example, have you heard of Golf Cart Santa? We are so excited for this.) Another at-home tradition you may want to try is the advent calendar.

Part of maintaining my Christmas magic is keeping the stress of the holidays to a minimum. Something that makes me sad about this season is how easy it is to become overwhelmed with everything to prepare before Christmas arrives. However, I am determined to try to keep the anxiety levels low and enjoy each moment as much as possible.

For those who actually do love and treasure their elf on the shelf fun, I salute you. And I admire you. I can understand how it works for some families. It just doesn’t work for mine.

Katie Templet
A kid at heart, Katie loves all things writing, Harry Potter and musicals. At any moment, she is down for either a cup of coffee or margarita. Her passions are building and improving her community of Lafayette, where she was born and raised, and teaching her one daughter to have a British accent. (Not so successful at that last part yet). She spends her day as a nonprofit ambassador, helping nonprofits amplify their mission and creating more social good.


  1. AMEN! I have a three year old and a 6 month old, and we will NOT be partaking in the Elf on the Shelf misery. I have, however, found a great alternative called The Giving Manger. It focuses on acts of kindness and the real spirit of Christmas.

    And NO thanks to whoever decided to bring elf on the shelf into classrooms. I teach 2nd grade and every year am pressured by students- and their parents trying to buy an elf on the shelf for the classroom. NO. This time of year is WAY too busy for me to have to come up with something every day for the elf to do, let alone remember to move it. We also have The GIving Manger in my classroom and I much prefer that option.


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