When I was a little girl, decorating for Christmas was quite a simple affair. We had our green cedar wreath with a red bow, the celebrated nativity scene with its numerous hand-carved figures, stockings for the mantel, a tacky green music box in the form of a Christmas tree (which at the time, I found to be most beautiful), a few other little trinkets placed around the house and, of course, the Christmas tree. Along with fragile ornaments, a string of lights with large multicolored bulbs and an overdose of silver tinsel, we also had small elves that we perched on the branches.
These little guys were dressed in red outfits trimmed in green, and they had plastic faces with twinkly eyes and happy smiles. I spent countless hours playing with them, untucking their legs from their arms, which were sewn together in a circle, and propping them up all over the Christmas tree. Sometimes they stood on their wobbly legs, other times they rode an ornament like a horse. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with these elves, but that was the extent of their magical appeal.
I rather forgot about my childhood elves until my mother gave me the collection when my children were small. The red outfits had hardly aged, and their frozen smiles brought back warm memories of my endless games with them. I introduced our three daughters to these delightful little characters, and they became engrossed with finding homes for them in the recesses of our Christmas tree. However, they became euphoric once they discovered that they were actually magic. It was during the midnight hours that the elves jumped to different branches and landed in odd positions, providing a fun surprise each morning throughout December.
Parents of young children today are probably snickering at the simplistic adventures we Clays had with our elves compared to the new growing holiday tradition surrounding the “Elf on the Shelf.” In contrast, our elves were positively boring! These modern elves are scouts sent from the North Pole by Santa to keep a watchful eye on the children, taking careful notes for the naughty and nice list. Families adopt the elves, give them names, and the magic mania begins. Each morning, children bound out of bed to see where the elves might be found around the house and to search for evidence of elf mischief.
Facebook and Pinterest have provided fuel for the imagination with entertaining photos of elf antics that show elves stuck in the cookie jar, elves hugging a band of Barbie dolls, elves using toothpaste to write holiday greetings on the bathroom mirror, elves perched on the toilet seat fishing … and the list goes on.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the elves is that their appearance hasn’t changed with trending Christmas fashions; my vintage elves look the very same as these thoroughly modern magic elves, although mine lack the audacity to engage in the more impish adventures.
To you, your family and to the elf on your shelf, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!