Polemic Contra “Elf on the Shelf”

Christmas is not magical season. Magic (apart from that which originates from the demonic) is not real. Telling children to believe in magic and fiction in connection with the Nativity of Our Lord is a huge mistake.

Source: Flickr; Author: Davitydave; Creative Commons License

Elf on the Shelf: good little “Big Brother”, always watching. Source: Flickr; Author: Davitydave; Creative Commons License

I’d prefer not to fritter away the credibility and trust I’ve built up with my kids on selling fairy tales. There’s no Elf on the Shelf for the Quartermaster’s kids, as insurance against this foreseeable utterance: “Why should I believe you when you say God and Jesus are real? You said the same thing about Elf on the Shelf and Santa Claus!”

Elf on the Shelf strains the whole Santa thing — which has been grossly perverted by our secular consumer culture — to a point of ridiculosity. I intensely dislike the idea of coaxing good behavior from children with a season-long bribe. “Be good, or Santa won’t bring presents!” That’s true, because, getting stuff is the “reason for the season”?

As if we needed another reason to resist the whole Elf on the Shelf mania, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology says that Elf on the Shelf teaches kids “…..a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy.” This professor argues that the idea of Elf of the Shelf reporting back to Santa each night “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”

I would have to agree. Countless millions of children are being raised in the belief that a creepy little doll watches them during the month of December, and helps a fictitious dispenser of mammon to determine whether any pellets will drop into their cages at the end of the maze. Should the government ever decide to install a similar device for year-round monitoring — under the guise that it will be used for “safety” and to determine what “services” each family needs — it will be all the more palatable, thanks to Elf on the Shelf.

Elf on the Shelf is just another warped way that the secular religion known as Consumerism draws ’em in young, conditions ’em to want and buy, and then finally lets ’em down with the realization that the thing being sold was a total lie.

Catholic parents: things like Elf on the Shelf cheapen Christmas and betray the truth that Christmas is real. Our focus should be on the reality: an infant — both fully God and fully human — was born 2,000 years ago to an Immaculate Virgin. He didn’t come to bring Xboxes and iPads. He doesn’t condition His love upon good conduct. He isn’t a minion who watches us and reports back the Big Guy.

Jesus is the Word. He is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. He is the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. He is the door through which we enter into salvation. Giving our children their first introduction to their Savior — and encouraging them to prepare their hearts for Him — is our primary obligation at Advent and Christmastime.

Elf on the Shelf is a $15 hindrance in our mission as Catholic parents. As he sets his gaze on our kids, he diverts their attention — and ours — in an utterly wrong direction. Send Elf on the Shelf home to the landfill.

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11 thoughts on “Polemic Contra “Elf on the Shelf”

  1. I totally agree. Another silly distraction to take children’s minds away from the true reason why we celebrate Christmas. Why a creepy little sneaky looking doll would have more of our children’s attention at Christmas time than the glorious truths of a Savior has been born to save all mankind. How more exciting is that story. Its ok to talk about a stupid elf but very unusual and uncomfortable to talk about the Majesty of OUR SAVIOR.

  2. Thanks for your opinion. Your “hell or highwater” on the Christmas season is a turnoff. I love the Lord, my kids are in a great Catholic school, we are very focused on their formation. Kids can still be kids, while still truly understanding the meaning of Christmas. We bake Jesus a birthday cake every year, we will make sure the elf on the shelf isn’t in the same room however this year. Merry Christmas!

    • Merry Christmas to you Joy.. In my world we have no
      Catholic Schools. I am the grandmother of 9 young grandchildren. It takes a lot of prayer and extra work and encouragement to keep my family focused on what is really important at Christmas and throughout the rest of the year.
      Many others that I speak to are of the same opinion.
      Families don’t need this silly distraction set in children’s minds at any time of the year. What I experienced with elf on a shelf has been totally rediculous. Everybody is different and will take this new elf phenomenon to different levels of silliness. We will always be contending with the world the flesh and the devil. I think the devil is quite happy with this new add on for our children to fall asleep at night wondering if they have been good enough that day for the sly looking little elf. You are fortunate that you can bring your children up in a Catholic school with sound christian teaching. Many families do not have that blessesd opportunity. As for hell and highwater that may be exactly where we are at in world events. I would like to recommend a book by Father Joseph M. Esper,
      ” On the Brink”.. Making our children beleive lies is A ok with the devil. All harmless? The question is why waste the time.

  3. Considering all you have said, I recall my own childhood in a Catholic, Hungarian family where the Christmas was brought (all decorated) to houses on Christmas Eve by the angels and the gifts under the tree were from the Baby Jesus. When I learned about the parents’ role years later, I had no trouble accepting my mother’s explanation that everything we have comes to us from Jesus. He uses parents as his special partners, Even more interesting is that during the communist era in Hungary, there was a documented event when the authorities asked children what Father WInter brought them for Christmas; each child answered that they received their gifts from the Baby Jesus. WHen the atheistic authorities scoffed, a tiny child appeared out of nowhere and thanked the children for remembering where their gifts came from. He disappeared in front of their ideas. Needless to say, there was quite a conversion of a few atheists that day.

    • This is an astonishingly beautiful lesson for all of us. All gifts, even the air we breathe come to us from Jesus and the angels are His messengers. All praise to Christ the King! May He reign in every heart forever!

    • I have to agree, this is a beautiful story for keeping the true focus of Christmas – Whilst I have had to take the route for my children that Santa Claus is really saint Nicholas, I will be telling my neices with their new babies that your story is a much better way. Thank you so much for shareing this.

    • I kind of agree, I think we have to respect that imagination, and wonder are all part of a child’s enrichment; (Didn’t we all love C.S.Lewises Lion witch and wardrobe growing up?) I’ve never heard of an “Elf on the shelf” toy in the U.K. I wonder if the Quatermaster has ever lived next to a six year old singing ” Whitney Eustons I will always love you- a – hooo!” full blast on a Christmas Kara-oke over and over? Thats much more scary! 🙂

  4. I’m curious if those opposed to “Elf on the Shelf” believed in Santa when they were little. I did and somehow I came out with my faith, spent time in the seminary, love the Catholic Church, the Eucharist, and Mary. My wife and I teach our child the faith, pray together every night (including saying what we are thankful for, pray for those who need our prayers….both living and deceased, and an act of contrition). We also teach our daughter about St. Nicholas and the real meaning of Christmas. I’ve always liked this blog, but since you are so insistent that the truth must be told, do you also go around telling children there is not Santa in shopping malls, in church, in your own family. After all, you have a responsibility to tell the truth.

    • I don’t go around telling *other people’s* kids that there’s no Santa, for the same reason that I don’t go around telling LDS kids there’s no “Golden Plates of Nephi” and the gnostic kids there’s no god of the tree or whatever. The catechism says that parents are the principal teachers of *their own* children. As soon as one of *my* kids expresses skepticism about the reality of Santa, I don’t double down on the untruth; we have a discussion about the REAL Communion of Saints, that St. Nicholas was a real person who has been mythologized into Santa Claus. And at least one of my kids, after this discussion, has asked, “Is it okay if I continue to believe in Santa (or pretend that he’s real)?” To which I say, sure.

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