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There's no Elf on the Shelf in my house!





The season of festive traditions has finally arrived.

I can’t wait for my favourite: the annual Berriman family Christmas quiz written by my mother (which takes place tomorrow, as my brother and family – keen to see us this December after a last-minute pandemic-related cancellation in 2021 – are arriving from their Torquay home unseasonably early).

The Berriman quiz usually causes squabbles and family fall-outs. It’s a festive highlight.

Holiday traditions are coming . . . (53454853)
Holiday traditions are coming . . . (53454853)

Other traditions include decorating the tree on my mum’s birthday (December 11), spending the ensuing week panicking over what to buy my father for his birthday (December 18), and then suffering a present-related breakdown as I try to buy brilliant gifts for everyone on the Christmas list and the three remaining family December birthdays (how dare anyone be born in December!).

But there is one ‘tradition’ we will not be following in our home: Elf on the Shelf.

For the uninitiated, Elf on the Shelf is based on a 2005 book in which elves visit children to spy on them and decide whether they are naughty or nice enough to receive presents from Father Christmas.

In reality, parents buy a cheap-looking plastic elf which enjoys different overnight adventures in your home every night from December 1 until Christmas Eve.

I have no doubt children enjoy it, but I find the notion of spying elves a little sinister and sense more than a whiff of commercialism around the whole concept.

Don’t get me wrong, I am no Grinch.

I’m all for festivities, visits to Mr Claus, office secret Santas, Christmas jumpers and advent calendars (Clara was horrified to discover the advent calendars of my childhood only contained a picture behind each cardboard door – not even a chocolate), but I draw the line at a flipping Elf on the Shelf.

You see, it’s not just posing a plastic elf in a different scenario every night for 24 nights. Once you start, you’ve set yourself up to do it every year until – potentially – your child reaches adulthood.

Until now, the whole Elf on the Shelf concept had passed my five-year-old by, but on Wednesday that all came to an abrupt end when Clara’s neighbour friend Ruby came round brandishing her elf.

“Where’s my elf?” asked Clara.

“You haven’t got one, I don’t want to buy one,” I said, unthinking, while unpacking shopping.

“Santa delivered mine, it wasn’t bought,” said Ruby.

Gah! Keen to maintain the magic for both of them (but still not wanting to budge on buying a plastic elf) I immediately backtracked.

“Err . . . Clara’s elf is a super magic elf because it is invisible and no human can see it,” I blurted out somewhat unconvincingly, but convincing enough for the girls to embark on a fruitless 20-minute search of the house for Clara’s magical invisible elf.

Phew. Festive parenting bullet successfully dodged.