Who Invented the Elf on the Shelf?

elf on the shelf book

We noticed that our story on Elf on the Shelf memes has been trending again, so we’ve been asking ourselves, who invented the Elf on the Shelf?

The Elf on the Shelf tradition started back in 2004, so relatively recently. It feels like it’s been going on forever, but no, it’s only two decades. It all started when Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell self-published the book The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition. This simple self-published book from 2004 has now evolved into a $10 million year business.

The premise is that elves visit children from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, after which they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season. While the elves are visiting children, they are watching people’s homes to make sure the kids are good. These are known as “scout elves.” It’s an ongoing game of hide and seek with the kids, and the premise being the doll itself freezes in place until the kids find them. Meanwhile, they’re watching…always watching.

Since this tradition started in 2004, numerous parents will leave their Elves on the Shelf in rather compromising positions and send them all over the web as memes.

Some people have greatly criticized the Elf on the Shelf movement, viewing it as a way to “bully [one’s] child into thinking that good behavior equals gifts,” according to Kate Tuttle from the Atlantic.

Either way, now the Elf on the Shelf meme is simply feeding the Elf on the Shelf tradition and encouraging more and more parents to follow suit with the Elf on the Shelf. We are nearly 20 years later, and people are buying it for their kids just like it was bought for them.

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