January 19, 2019

Elf on the Shelf Is Big Brother

“Elf on the Shelf is the worst addition to American Christmas festivities of the last half century. Yes, even worse than Love Actually.

The elf is a small toy with a smarmy face that children are not allowed to touch lest they break its supposed magic. Each night from Thanksgiving on, parents place it in a new location, typically with a clear view of the most trafficked room of the home. From there, the kids are told, the elf will observe everything they do and rat them out to Santa Claus. Should they misbehave, this puckish narc will ensure their Christmas haul shrinks accordingly.

As others have observed, this is transparently “a marketing juggernaut dressed up as a ‘tradition.'” Yet many parents have “adopted” it anyway, to borrow the toy’s cloying conceit. “With Elfie’s help, I reckon my husband and I squeeze about a month of improved conduct from our brood,” explains Ruth Margolis here at The Week. Whatever the elf’s appeal may be for children — and frankly, as a former kindergarten Santa truther, I can’t imagine any such lure — the pitch to parents is obvious: This apocryphal expansion of the Santa mythology might successfully blackmail your kids into passable behavior in pursuit of disposable plastic trifles they unquestionably do not need.”

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