I find the history and origin of the Elf on the Shelf story to be fascinating. Here’s what I’ve learned about where the Elf on the Shelf began, who created the idea, and why some families follow the tradition. I’ve also included a fun, FREE! Elf on the Shelf printable for homeschool families and others who enjoy moving their elf nightly and using it as a fun tool for Christmas cheer.
This post contains affiliate links which means when you click on them, I may receive compensation for referring you. Please see my disclosure for more information.
The continued popularity of Elf on the Shelf can all be attributed to the 2005 picture book (and accompanying plush elf), written by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell. This mother and daughter team wanted to share a fun family tradition with children everywhere.
It all started when Carol was young. Her family had a vintage elf named Fisbee. It was Fisbee’s job to spy on the children in the household and report back to Santa with a list of who was naughty and who was nice.
The idea to write the book became a reality after Chanda had a child of her own. It was then that she told her mom that she needed an elf just like Fisbee.
Ironically, “The Elf on that Shelf: A Christmas Tradition” almost never came to be. Every publisher and editor that Aebersold and Bell approached turned down the idea. The premise behind each negative response was that nothing like it had ever been mass-marketed before.
In the beginning, The Elf on the Shelf was self-published. Carol, Chanda and Carol’s other daughter lovingly sold the books one by one. Once people heard the story, they almost immediately wanted to buy the book.
Looking back, all of these women feel that if this story had been published in the traditional manner, it wouldn’t have been as much of a success. Why? It’s simple, really. The tradition would’ve probably been lost.
To date, “The Elf on that Shelf: A Christmas Tradition” has sold millions of copies. Actress Jennifer Garner helped to boost sales in 2007. A picture of her surfaced holding the book. Of course, everyone wanted one after that.
In case you’re not familiar with the tradition, it goes like this. Every night from Christmas until Thanksgiving, these “scout” elves move around their respective houses getting into whatever mischief they can.
Children are not permitted to touch the elf who lives with them. That’s the only rule. If they do touch him, it takes away the magic and he won’t be able to report to Santa Claus.
Parents sometimes have a hard time thinking of mischievous things for this little elf to get into. After all, there’s several weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, there’s no reason to panic! A quick search on Pinterest will solve the dilemma in no time.
The Elf on the Shelf product line has expanded over the years. Outfits and other accessories can be purchased practically anywhere. There’s also apps, Twitter, Facebook pages, and more resources to refer to. Most recently, the elf acquired his own Instagram account!
Does your family have a resident Elf on the Shelf who visits during the holidays? If so, what kind of mischief does he usually get into? Part of the fun is to come up with crazy ideas that everyone will remember fondly for Christmases to come. On the other hand, if you don’t have your own Elf on the Shelf, there is no better time to start this festive family tradition.
To receive the free printable Elf on the Shelf Report Sheets, put your email into the form below.
Then remember to check your email to find the link to the download page, where you can download this printable, plus access to all that I’ve ever added, and more to come! The link is included in EVERY email I send, usually located at the bottom. Thanks for subscribing!
(Please note: By entering your email above, you will receive my weekly recap newsletters and resources, sent out about once per week. You may unsubscribe at any time.)