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Family dynamics

01st Dec 2021

The mum behind Elf on the Shelf: “Being part of families creating Christmas memories is magical”

This week, families all over the world (my own included) are welcoming their Elf on the Shelf – or Scout Elves, as they are also known, back again, when they return from the North Pole.

During Scout Elf Return Week, elves start to make their way back to their human homes to spend Christmas with their families. Although most elves return during Scout Elf Return Week, all elves have different schedules; some may return a little earlier and some a little later – especially those who are helping Santa with important business!

The elves, as you may or may not know, work for Santa Claus himself, but, at holiday season time, come live with their human families to help Santa keep an eye on all the boys and girls around the world to see if they are being good. You cannot buy an elf (they are living things, you know!), but merely adopt them (from one of the many, many Santa approved Official Scout Elf Adoption Centers across the world.

While staying with their human families, the elves fly back to the North Pole every night to report to Santa on the state of things in their household. And when they come back before morning, tend to land in different places and get up to all sorts of sweet fun – much to the children’s delight when they get out of bed to see where there elf is now.

And as you Instagram- and Facebook feeds are about to be flooded with images of these cute elves and their many pre-Christmas antics, an American mother-and-daughters trio can sit back and know that they are playing a part in helping families across the globe create magical Christmas memories.

We recently chatted with Chanda Bell (to the left in the photo), one of the women behind the now iconic ‘Elf on the Shelf; a Christmas Tradition’ to talk magic, memories, and important elf-keeping rules.

How Elf on the Shelf came about

“As long as I can remember, we had a little elf in our house that always showed up around the holidays,” Chanda explains. “His job was to keep an eye on us children and make sure we were being good. And as we got older, he still always showed up. All through high school and even when we all went off to college and university, come December, the elf was there.”

But it wasn’t until she herself had become a mum, that Chanda, who worked as a reading and English teacher, began to think that they should share their tradition with others.

Just before Christmas in 2004, Bell was visiting her parents’ home when she looked up and noticed the small toy elf sitting on the Christmas tree.

“I said to my mum: ‘We should write a book!’ Bell remembers.

Bell’s own mum, Carol Aebersold, was at the time going through a rough time with depression, but liked the idea of bringing their family tradition to others, and so the two women, wrote and in 2005 published the book Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition.

Not all smooth sailing

Today, Chanda, her mum and her twin sister Christa, are selling books, Scout Elves and now also Elf Pets all over the world, but it was hard work at the beginning to spread the word and get people interested in buying the book about their own family tradition.

“To begin with, it was never meant to be this big business,” Chanda explains. “It started with just wanting to write this story together with my mum, and it really was such a special time, writing this book.”

When written, the mother-daughter duo could at first not get a single publisher to want to take them on, and so ended up self-publishing the book.

“It was not smooth sailing to start with,” Bell explains. “We had to self-publish and use our own money and credit cards to get the book out there and visit fairs and festivals to tell people about the Scout Elf tradition and try to sell books.”

But a couple of years in, things turned a corner for the mother-daughter trio, and their family Christmas tradition soon became a worldwide phenomenon, spreading joy, magic, and Christmas spirit to families all over the world.

The “best job in the world”

Today, Chanda leads the creative side of the Elf on the Shelf, cultivating a careful focus on products, developing new additions, like the new Elf Pets and Claus Couture Collection (designed by Mrs Claus herself!) and loves nothing more than knowing she is helping make Christmas more fun and special for children – and adults – everywhere.

“It is so magical, to know that our family tradition, something our mum uses to do for us, is now becoming something families around the world are partaking in,” Bell explains.

Creating traditions, especially this time a year, is such a bit part of what families are all about, and for Bell, knowing that the Elf tradition is keeping the idea of magic alive for children and families, is the best part of her job.

Keeping the spirit of the season alive for children worldwide is vital, think Bell. “Kids believe in Santa’s scout elves just as fiercely as they believe in Santa, and they derive the great joy from thinking about, writing to and interacting with them.”

“We feel like it helps create some very special childhood memories, and it keeps the idea of kindness and magic present, and, really, the world needs more of that.”

The VERY important Elf Rules

If YOUR family wished to adopt an elf this Christmas, know that it is important for both children and adults alike to be made aware of The Elf on the Shelf’s rules.

1. Please Don’t Touch the Scout Elves. When you do, they lose their Christmas magic and are unable to fly to the North Pole to complete their duties. Children know this to be one of the cardinal rules of the North Pole, and they worry when they think one of their North Pole friends has been touched and lost his or her magic.

2. Elves Can’t Speak. After all, a scout elf’s job is to watch and listen. Therefore, no voice or voiceover should be attached to the scout elves.

3. Elves Are Not Mischievous or Naughty. Scout elves like to have fun, but they are never mischievous or naughty—they are always nice! After all, they wouldn’t want to end up on Santa’s naughty list. You will never see an elf partake in anything inappropriate—it’s just not the North Pole way.

4. Scout Elves Don’t Like Pins, Needles or Anything Sharp. An authentic North Pole scout elf never has anything pinned, stapled or fastened to it—think how much that would hurt!

5. Scout Elves Never Land Next to Lights or Flames. Just like you, scout elves like to keep a safe distance from fire while they’re roasting marshmallows and from the glimmering lights on the Christmas tree to avoid getting burned. If you notice a scout elf has landed too close to a flame or light, just let him know so he can fly to a new spot!

6. Elves Move Themselves by Flying Each Night. Children know that scout elves use their Christmas magic to fly wherever they need to go. Please refrain from saying things like someone “moved the elf.” If someone moved them they would lose their magic!