News and Tribune


December 11, 2012

BEAM: Somebody’s watching me

In homes across America this holiday season, a tiny stalker hides. He wears white gloves, like all good burglars do, as he smiles sinisterly down from his wooden perch at the family in the room below. Here he waits and listens.

Throughout December, his vantage points change. Espionage is not his forte and each day he’s easily discovered in an inconvenient situation. Of course, when you wear a skin tight red jumpsuit and a pointy hat, you’re bound to attract some attention. In retrospect, green camouflage might have been more practical.

Sketch artists beware. This isn’t your ordinary suspect. Notice the pointy Spock ears and blood red lips. Throw a huge white collar only a grandmother could love around his neck, and you have your perp.

Calling all cars, be on the lookout for an elf; more specifically, an Elf on the Shelf.

Not ever heard of Elf on the Shelf? Lucky you. Those of us with children in elementary school are all too keenly aware of his exploits. Let’s just say he’s one crazy elf.

The story goes that this scout elf arrives right after Thanksgiving. During the day, he watches the children and takes notes on their behavior. At night, the little man flies back to the North Pole to give Santa the dish on who in the house has been naughty or nice. I guess elves, like vampires, don’t sleep because early the next morning the creepy helpers venture back to their sentry positions to do it all over again until Christmas Eve.

But wait. Remember the preconditions in the movie “Gremlins”? No, you can feed Pointy after midnight. Well, at least I think you can. No, this elf only has one major rule: Don’t touch him or he’ll lose his magic. And no one wants a stranded elf in their home year-round. Visiting in-laws on speed would be more welcome.

Traditions of elves have been around for a while. According to, troublesome elves stop over at Danish homes and farms during the holidays to keep an eye out for naughtiness. Germany and several Scandinavian countries have similar tales. In the 1980s, Flora Johnson created a precursor to the current craze and named him Christopher Pop-In-Kins.

The Elf on the Shelf most people own today didn’t come about until 2005 when Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell self-published a book which included the “hibernating” 10-inch elf. Oh, and there’s also a lady elf. Santa is an equal opportunity employer.

Target sells the book and elf combo for $29.95; a little steep for something that’s supposed to aid Santa’s generous gift-giving quest. As of December 2011, more than 2.5 million elves had been sold, according to MSNBC.

Parents and children who play hide-and-seek with the little guy claim they get great joy from his antics. Tons of Pinterest sites have been devoted to filming his adventures. Toy “Star Wars” Storm Troopers have captured him. Barbie has driven a car and quite possibly may have had a date with him. He’s even made snow angels in flour.

For those of us who have decided not to participate in the tradition, we receive a bunch of questions. My children wondered why an elf didn’t visit our house. Rather than lying about another mythical creature or running out and purchasing the imp, I decided to tell the truth.

Don’t worry. The kids have been sworn to secrecy. I told them if they spilled the beans, Santa wouldn’t come on Christmas Eve. Make believe threats still work even without an elf.

Call me a Scrooge or a humbug, but that jolly doll creeps me out. Guilt is a strong motivator to buy one, but I just couldn’t go through the motions. Maybe it’s the fact our mornings are already too busy or that I don’t like the ever increasing commercialization of Christmas. Either way, the only elves involved in our holiday plans will be characters in the movie “The Hobbit.”

Really, that’s the small of the matter. We each choose which traditions that we follow. At times we incorporate the old. Other times we adopt something new.

Families, like customs, are each unique. And it’s that exceptionality that creates holiday magic, not just an inanimate elf.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at

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