hate the elf on the shelf

It’s no secret that I’m an Elf On The Shelf Hater.

The oddly pointy hat and the beedie, stalker-eyes creep me out. The last thing I wanted was one more thing to remember to do every night before I went to bed. I never wanted that thing in my house.

Three years ago my daughter was told (by a sly sister-in-law) that if she wrote a letter to Santa requesting an elf like all her friends had at their houses, she could get one too. Seriously? It was out of my power to ignore a letter to Santa.

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We named our elf Chloe and she’s been a part of the Christmas scene ever since. I was uneasy about the naughty stalker elf for so many reasons. So, as far as elves go, Chloe is the most boring. She never does anything creative or naughty. You know she’s has a wild night when she’s hanging upside down from the chandelier. And that’s it.

In fact, one Christmas I tried really hard to not bring her back. (Have I told you just how much I really don’t like this elf?) My daughter was so worried I actually created an email account for that dumb elf so she could communicate with us and tell us she wouldn’t be here until the 12 Days of Christmas. (So clearly I’m an elf hater and a sucker for making my children happy.)

This year Chloe came out as soon as our decorations were up. And this year Chloe saved Christmas. Totally and completely.

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Christmas is just a week away. We’ve already visited Santa and most of the presents are purchased and hidden. Santa has checked his list twice. But apparently there are naughty kids in fourth grade.

Last week my sweet 10-year-old asked me that question: “Mom, is Santa Claus real? The kids at school tell me that he’s not real but I think he is. Is he real?”

I seriously would have rather she asked me about french kissing. Stalling for time I suggested we read my favorite book, “I Believe in Santa Claus” by Diane G. Adamson. The author places emphasis on the symbols of Christmas, like the candy cane, star and wreath. She reminds us of the correlation between each Christmas symbol and it’s relation to our Savior, and just how alike Santa Claus and Jesus Christ really are.

The book concludes, “Santa Clause is a symbol of Christmas…The symbols of Christmas remind me of Christ. So, I believe in Santa Claus.”

“Does that answer your question?” I asked.

“No.” She said, shaking her head. I knew it wouldn’t.

It was surprisingly nice outside and I quietly took her on the front porch so we could sit and talk alone. I explained how Santa Claus relies on the help of parents.

“I don’t get it,” she told me.

I took a deep breath and ripped the bandaid off. “Honey, Santa isn’t real. He represents the Spirit of Christmas and all the things that are good and loving in the world. Santa lives through us as we give and serve each other. Parents bring the presents on Christmas Eve.”

“Actually,” I continued, “next week we are shopping for a family who needs help with Christmas. We get to buy the gifts and wrap them and deliver them. And only we will know what is under the tree for that family. So that really will make us Santa. We all can share the Spirit of Christmas.”

The tears started and she asked, “so does that mean that Chloe isn’t real?”

“She’s not real either.” I wrapped my arm around my daughter as she cried on my shoulder. She loves that elf. I think it may be her favorite part of December.

“So I really can touch her and she can still go to the North Pole?”

“No. The North Pole doesn’t exist either.” There were even more tears.

“So will I not get a present this year?”

“Oh Honey! As long as you live in my home, you will always have a surprise from Santa under the tree Christmas morning,” I promised. We hugged and I sent her one her way.

I clearly remember the year I stopped believing in Santa. I’ll never forget how sad I was. It was easily my worst Christmas. The next year — as I helped keep the fun of Santa alive for my younger brothers — Christmas was enjoyable again. I was so worried my daughter was about to face a season of Christmas sadness she’d never forget.

Over the next six hours, the questions flooded in:

“Can I touch Chloe?”

“So you actually move her?”

“How did Chloe even get here?”

“What about the wrapping paper that I’ve never seen before?”

“So you don’t really go to sleep on Christmas Eve?”

and my personal favorite, “Does Daddy know you do this?”

In the glow of the lights from the Christmas tree, my daughter and I wrapped gifts and spoke in whispers.  I mentioned I might need some help finding new hiding places for Chloe. And Katelyn’s eyes lit up.

“Can I stay up late and move her?” she excitedly asked.

And in that moment, I saw the Spirit of Christmas enter her little heart and shine brighter than ever. My daughter was glowing and grinning from year to year.

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Because of that elf, I was able to quickly and immediately pass on a part of Christmas over to her. And Katelyn could begin to see the joy of Christmas. What had been a sad afternoon turned into a joyous day I’ll always remember.

Santa Clause is a symbol of Christmas and the symbols of Christmas remind me of Christ. So, I believe in Santa Claus. And now, I believe in Chloe the Elf too.