Saying no to “The Elf on the Shelf” and other traditions


I love the Christmas season for many reasons, but especially because of all the traditions. We decorate our house with a big tree with lights and ornaments that we’ve made or purchased over the years. Each ornament has special meaning. There’s the heart that I gave my wife to commemorate our first Christmas together and “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments for each of our kids. We have other ornaments too: the little Harry Potter replica to represent the year my daughter raced through the series and convinced me to take her to the midnight unveiling of the sixth book; the toy train ornament that we got for our middle son and brought a huge smile to his face; and the little Santa ornament that our youngest son would take off the tree each night and take to bed with him.

We have other holiday traditions too. We’ve written letters to Santa Claus and his helpers and sat on his lap. We’ve decorated sugar cookies and made gingerbread houses. Yes, I always seem to manage to eat more of the icing than actually help with the baking, but the kids never seem to mind.

We’ve tried to give back too. We’ve purchased Angel Tree gifts helping families in need and have donated to local food banks. Come Christmas Eve, we have a tradition of everyone attending Candlelight Service together. We’ll dress in something festive, hold each other’s hands as we say the Lord’s Prayer, and later offer each other the sign of peace.

I love our traditions, but we’ve fallen down in some other areas that rank us up there with Ebenezer Scrooge. Yup, bring on the spirits straight out of the pages of A Christmas Carol: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future:

–Sending “The Elf on the Shelf” packing. We have three kids—two of whom are now adults, and one who thinks he is — and we have never had an Elf on the Shelf. Yes, you read that correctly, we’ve never played host to the troubling little elf. You know what I’m talking about, the 2005 book and elf, who plays the role of Santa’s little helper, watching over little boys and girls by day, and each night returns to the North Pole to report on who’s been naughty or nice. Of course, as many parents have complained to us over the years, the “damn little elf” needs lots care and attention. In particular, if you haven’t caught on, he needs to be moved each morning. Oh my!

I’m not sure how, but we somehow missed the fad. (Now my wife made the mistake of introducing our kids to Seamus, a mischievous little leprechaun who has a sweet-tooth and likes to create havoc on and around St. Patrick’s Day, but that’s a story for another day.) I guess our kids were too old by the time the Elf on the Shelf became a thing. If he had ever made a stop at our house, I’m pretty sure my wife and I would have sent him packing back to the North Pole. To steal from the all-time great movie, “The Godfather,” we would have sent the him “sleeping with the fishes.”

And so, our kids missed out.

Thumbs down to the Griswolds. We’ve watched a ton of holiday-related movies together over the years, including comedies like Home Alone and Scrooged; action-adventure movie “Die Hard; family movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Nativity Story; and feel-good romances like White Christmas, Love Actually, and too many Hallmark Channel Christmas love stories. However, count us in the nay column for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Oh, I’ve loved Chevy Chase in Caddyshack” and “Saturday Night Live.” We just have never been big fans of the “Vacation” movies. Yes, I recognize that many people can quote from the movie verbatim, but I’ve never found Clark Griswold all that funny.

The first sign of being a scrooge is to lose your sense of humor, right?

Christmas in a liquid. My kids have never touched eggnog. We love various holiday drinks. I certainly love a few Christmas-themed adult beverages. Can you say Tröegs Mad Elf, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Victory Brewing’s Winter Cheers, or even a Sam Adams Winter Lager? I love them all, but eggnog doesn’t really float my wife’s or my boat.

–Giving the post office the day off. When the kids were young, we fought the good fight, but, a few years ago, my wife and I stopped forcing everyone to get together for a family photo and sending out Christmas cards. We’d pick a day and drive to a rustic-looking place in a local park, corral the kids, and hope-beyond-hope that the timer on the camera would get everyone with a half-way decent smile for a family portrait. We’d get the photo printed into cards, usually cutting it close, right up until the weekend before Christmas, and then we’d send them out to our friends. Somewhere along the line we stopped and have never restarted. I miss addressing each envelope and writing a few well-wishes, but I suspect the kids care the least about this tradition. (Of course, when we took the family picture, they all seemed to get their Christmas jollies seeing how far over the edge they could take dear ole’ dad.)

In any event, send in the first Christmas Spirit. I’m ready for him or her. Bah-humbug!

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