There’s No Elf on my Shelf :: A Story of an Elf Alternative

I sometimes imagine myself in a Christmas support group, sitting in a circle as everyone introduces themselves. There would be the Scrooges, the premature Christmas music players, the Hallmark Movie bingers, etc. Then it would be my turn::

Hi, my name’s Piper.

Hello, Piper.

My name’s Piper. I have three children four and under, I’m a Stay-At-Home-Mom, and there’s no Elf on my shelf.

After the present wrapping perfectionists faint and the gentleman who just admitted to watching every single airing of the 24 hour Christmas Story marathon spits out his eggnog, I’d stare at my hands, wishing I hadn’t let out my secret.

But it’s true :: there’s no Elf on our shelf, and it’s a conscious choice.

This is NOT to say that I hate Christmas! Quite the contrary! Yes, most Halloweens I stay up until midnight to play the first Christmas song of the season. Yes, we have themed movie nights with snacks to go with the movies. Yes, you better believe that when Charlotte says, “Our house looks like a Santa House!” She knows this specifically, because she has visited a vast array of Santas and seen nearly every Christmas movie appropriate for children.

So in the rendition of Cindy Lou Who, “Mommy Claus, why? Why don’t we have an Elf? Why?” Well, I’ll not only tell you why we don’t have an Elf, but also what we do instead. 

My Three Strikes Against the Elf

There's No Elf on my Shelf :: A Story of an Elf Alternative | Houston Moms Blog1 :: He Creeps Me Out

I’m not scared of clowns or dolls, but the Elf really creeps me out. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s his size or his facial expression, but I just don’t care for him. It’s usually around this time of year that Target goes into overdrive to sell the newest accessories for Elf on the Shelf and makes giant displays of the Elf. I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up just thinking about it. 

2 :: It Becomes a Comparison Game for Kids

As a former teacher, I was in the unique position to see another perspective of Elf on the Shelf. After Thanksgiving, kids would start humming about whose Elf came back and HOW they came back. Some had letters, some brought welcome gifts, and others had a whole set of new clothes for the Elf to wear. As December wore on, {and believe me as a classroom teacher, that is THE longest month of the year, eclipsed only by May} I gradually noticed that kids would talk about what “their” Elf did every morning.

My Elf wrote on my face this morning!

Oh yeah, well MY Elf created a mosaic of my face out of M&Ms!

Well, MY Elf made M&M cookies for me!

I noticed that the Elf on the Shelf quickly became a contest in my classroom, one in which no one could win, least of all the Christmas spirit.

3 :: It Tends to Focus on Negative Behavior

Yes, pointedly, I’m sure we ALL use the “Santa’s watching” warning on our kids as we’re fighting the good fight against the constant sugar highs and exuberant excitement that is December, but I feel that the Elf takes this to a whole separate level. Not only is the Elf supposed to be constantly monitoring our kids, but also he reports back to Santa every night if our kids were bad. I HAVE seen parents use the Elf as a “positive scout” saying, “You want to make sure that your Elf has something good to tell Santa tonight,” {which I love}, but most of the time, the Elf is used as a tattle-tale.

We Don’t have an Elf, but we DO have Hay in a Manger

Okay, so by now you get it, I do NOT like the Elf. If you do, and it works for your family, by all means, disregard my dislike, and you keep doing you.  Because no one likes a complainer, without offering a solution, however, I do want to present to you our December Christmas tradition, and why we love it :: Hay in the Manger.

There's No Elf on my Shelf :: A Story of an Elf Alternative | Houston Moms Blog

What is it?

Inspired by my beloved first grade teacher, Hay in the Manger is a tradition that my family does every December in which we focus on creating a place in our home for Baby Jesus through positive actions. On December 1st, {or really anytime after Thanksgiving as I’m setting out the Christmas decorations}, I pull out the manger that a friend of our family made for our tradition. We read a book about the Christmas story {my favorite is The First Christmas Night by Keith Christopher}, and then we talk about how we are going to use the month of December to create a place in our home and our hearts for Baby Jesus.

There's No Elf on my Shelf :: A Story of an Elf Alternative | Houston Moms Blog

After the initial story, I put out a paper bag and fill it with hay {also know at Petco as hamster bedding} and tell my kids that each time they do something kind for anyone, they can put a piece of hay in the manger to make a soft bed for Baby Jesus. I then put the manger under the tree, and we watch it slowly fill with good deeds throughout the month. As a finale, on Christmas morning, I put baby Jesus in the manger, and He is always met with squeals of glee!

Why I love it

Although admittedly, this tradition is not as flashy as the Elf, I feel that it brings a simplicity to the season that we frequently miss. It causes my children to focus on their spiritual preparation, and it usually becomes a topic of family conversation. Finally, it focuses completely on positive behavior and allows even young ones to understand goal-setting and achieving. 

So whether you share my distaste for the Elf, or if you’re just looking for an alternative, I hope you’ll try out Hay in the Manger. It brings great joy to our family, and I hope it will bring joy to yours as well!

There's No Elf on my Shelf :: A Story of an Elf Alternative | Houston Moms Blog

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