One cold day while I was in school, my mother made her trip to our local 5 & 10.
If you are much younger than I am, you might not know what a 5&10 is. A 5&10 is yesteryears answer to today's dollar store, in which the items inside the store cost between 5 cents and 10 cents. By the time I cam along in the 1960's, there were items that cost dollars and not just cents, but the majority of items cost less than a dollar and in my experience, were of good quality if not of excellent quality. So on this cold day during the Advent season, my mom found an elf that looked similar to this little guy pictured, except that he was all in green and sat on a gold star. A little gold cord loop let you hang him from something as a decoration. My mom decided to hang him from our home's diningroom chandelier over the table. We all thought he was awfully cute, but mom didn't lead any of us to think that this little elf would be monitoring our activities and reporting them to Santa. No, that was the job of the little elves that Santa dropped by our house in the dead of night. None of us knew the night or the time the elves would be dropped off, so we better be good, because the elves were watching and reporting to Santa!!
The facts were, we knew the difference between real elves which no one could see, and a plastic elf from the dime store!
As time went on, I was able to find copies of my mom's elf at yard sales and I put them on my Christmas tree or around the house, but I never told my kids that the elves were real and making notes
of their behavior to report to Santa. My kids knew these were just Christmas decorations that Mom
has as a kid, and really liked. They knew, like my sibling and I knew years earlier, that the real elves were tiny and quick and were rarely if ever seen; just may-be their shadows would be glimpsed now and then. The elves would be dropped off by Santa Clause on the first night of Advent, and would be making notes on my children's behaviors to be given to Santa on Christmas Eve, when they would be picked up and bought home to the North Pole. I'm a bit more, okay, a lot more theatrical than my mother, so my kids would hear me occassionally shriek "STOP!! Oh my gosh, Matt! You almost stomped on that elf! Will you please be carefull!" and for a little while, my children would walk slowly, on tip toe, watching for elves. They also would neatly fold Kleenex to make comfortable elf pillows and spread Kleenex over cotton balls to make comfortable elf beds.
Which is why I don't get today's children's craze of Elf on a Shelf. I read up on the antics of this elf, and he does things like draw mustaches on photgraphs using markers (!), makes snow angels in flour he spills, leaves mini-marshmallows in a big mess on the floor after a fight at night when everyone is in bed. What gives?
Our elves watched our family for behavior that would lead to a reduction on Christmas gifts, or even no Christmas gifts and a gifting of coal. Today's elf watches the kids for bad behavior and then indulges in it at night himself?
Nope, I don't get it.
By the way, there is a very good Christmas Elf book that you might want to hunt down. It is called "Santa Clause" and it is all about the Elves and Santa Clause working at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas. It is written in rhyming prose, and came out in either the late 1960's, early seventies. The illustrations are imaginative and charming. Start looking for it now so that you are ready next Christmas.