Everything you need to know about Elf on the Shelf, the US Christmas tradition becoming popular here

Pre-Christmas traditions are strongly held – from putting up your tree to going out carolling, everyone has their rituals. Our festive schedules are so jam-packed it seems almost impossible that a new custom could be created. Where would we find the time?

And yet that’s exactly what’s happened with Elf on the Shelf. This is a trend from America which has jumped across the pond, and is gaining popularity in our homes.

As with most Christmas traditions, it’s fun and the whole family can get involved.

Elf on the Shelf can return to homes any time between now and December 1,  so here’s everything you need to know to get started…

Where does the tradition come from?

It all stems from a children’s book called “The Elf on the Shelf,” published in 2005 by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell – you can buy it for £22.95 from Amazon and it comes with a toy elf.

The story is about elves visiting children every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. They’re sent from Father Christmas to check if the kids are being naughty or nice, and to report back their findings to the boss.

The main rule to remember for Elf on the Shelf is children aren’t allowed to touch the toy – they can only talk to it and tell it their Christmas wishes.

How does it work?

It’s essentially like a very friendly game of hide and seek. Every morning the elf is somewhere new in the house for the kids to find.

We’re not saying the parents definitely need to move the elf every night, but there’s also a chance they might have to give the creature a helping hand…

How have people been doing it?

We’re now living in the era of Instagram, which means families have been outdoing themselves with funny and innovative places to put their elves. It’s become such a big trend there are websites dedicated to fun elf-based ideas.

The ‘shelf’ part of this tradition’s name is pretty loose – in all honesty, you can put Santa’s helper anywhere in your house for the kids to find.

These are some of our favourites from last year…

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Day 24 - Rolling down the stairs #elfontheshelf2017

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There’s no doubt children look forward to the ritual of looking for the elf every day, but not all parents are quite so enthused. On social media there are various complaints of how time-consuming and difficult it is to think up new hiding places every day, as well as the weird surveillance element of the elf watching over you to report back to Santa.

However, if you’re into the tradition it’s high time to start thinking of the best spots for your elf – both for your kids and for the ‘gram.

- Press Association

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