In our house each Christmastime, the Elf on the Shelf moves (almost) every night. It has moved each year since it arrived in 2015, a gift from my beloved grandmother who wanted nothing more than to be a part of our family beginning a wonderful tradition. For six years, we desperately tried to remember to move the pesky thing which oldest our son named, “Johnny Cakes”.
Some days we would forget and come up with elaborate explanations as to why it did not move. Then we got smart and started setting alarms to remind ourselves. On nights when we finally crashed into bed after putting all three kids to bed, the alarm would go off and we would plead with the other person to move it. And one of us would.
But we don’t move it anymore.
Was it worth all the effort?
Six years of moving it. Six years of trying to remember. Was it worth it?
Absolutely! Six years of pure joy each morning the kids woke up to Johnny Cakes in a new spot. Six years of the kids wondering when he would arrive for the first time of the year. Six years of sneaking around like a child with my husband and battling over new spots. So worth it. Then why did we stop, you ask?
We stopped moving it, but the Elf still moves, we just aren’t the ones moving it anymore. Our 9-year-old son does. He’s in on the magic. And that alone is a gift I never knew I needed. He takes pride in his work and asks every night if he can be the one to move it to which we gladly proclaim, “YES”!
How can this little man on the left of me, be the one who is now moving our elf? Queue the tears. Our son who named the elf six years ago now gets to be the one to make the magic happen for his younger brother and sister. He was not even sad to find out the truth, he was overjoyed to be a part of the magic. He’s blown it a couple times spewing, “I moved it here or there…” but luckily his siblings do not catch on. He takes joy in his role now and we get to lay in bed without setting alarms. The kids come rushing down the stairs to find the elf and my oldest just winks at me and plays along knowing that he created a little magic that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Choose the traditions that speak to you
Now, this isn’t a persuasive post telling you that you should be doing the Elf on the Shelf trend. I do not encourage anyone to follow trends for trends sake. However, I encourage you to find the magic that lights up your Christmas season, and illuminate it, take joy in it, and do not put a damper on it too early. Six years goes fast. Childhood goes too fast. I have a few pieces of advice this holiday season when it comes to traditions.
1. Maximize the traditions you love and cut out (or hire out) the ones you do not.
Christmas traditions are numerous and there are new ones popping up each year. Don’t try to keep up! Just focus on the ones you and your family enjoy. Trying to do everything will just stress you out. For example, if you really don’t like making cookies, buy them! If you do like baking, make them! If you love Elf on the Shelf, by all means, live it up. If you don’t do the elf, do not think you not doing enough – you are just choosing other traditions you love.
2. Don’t over fill your calendar and under fill your soul.
Quality, not quantity brings happiness this holiday season when it comes to events and activities. Put items on your December calendar through a test. Does this event bring joy to others or me? If not, cut it out. Also think about reconsidering your definition of “obligations”. Is the event truly an obligation, or have you just convinced yourself it is?
3. Teach your children about giving and make it a tangible experience.
Take your kids on a special trip to pick out toys or clothing for those in need. Have them physically put the items in the bin or wrap them up. The joy of Christmas belongs to the giver, and teaching our children to give, is giving them joy. Happiness comes and goes like the unwrapping of presents on Christmas morning, but the joy of giving lasts a lifetime.
4. Remember what the season is about and act intentionally.
There are so many ways we are set up to fail each Holiday Season. Not having enough, not doing enough or not being enough can cause feelings of guilt and stress. But Christmas is not about having and doing. It’s about loving and giving. So, be intentional. Because if we aren’t, we may unintentionally find ourselves in a place we didn’t mean to be this season. And where we really want to be is amidst all the joy that the true meaning of Christmas brings.
5. Be a light.
Light shines bright in the darkness. Light is contagious. The light draws us in. God put a star over Bethlehem the very first Christmas many years ago, and we still celebrate that star and “lights” each Christmas Holiday. But how can we be a light? We do so by not letting ourselves get away from the true meaning of Christmas. We can be a light by helping others even if we are out of our comfort zone. We can also be a light by making Christmas light up for someone else.
Try to view Christmas through the eyes of a child. Look at life with wonder again. Look in awe over the first snowflake falling. Get your adult snow pants on and get out there with the kids. Jump with joy when your favorite Christmas movie comes on TV. Dance in the kitchen with your children and your spouse. If you live somewhere warm, make sand angels. Play with abandon in the snow and get messy painting home-made Christmas gifts. Close your eyes and remember what made Christmas so magical for you when you were a child and don’t forget it just because you are an adult.
Make traditions your own
Don’t do Elf on the Shelf because you think you must or because I told you to, but if you want to do it, do it without regrets. Traditions aren’t traditions because everyone does them. Traditions are traditions because your family does them. And guess what? Maybe your traditions aren’t even the same from year to year and that’s a tradition in itself.
Without talking myself in circles anymore, I hope you understand the point is that Christmas is for Christ. Everything else is a bonus. Keep HIM your focus and everything else is just the icing on your horribly frosted, but well-loved gingerbread house. PS: I do not do the gingerbread house tradition and it’s OK.
Which number above speaks to you the most? Tell us below in the comments!