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Elf on the Shelf: Catching up on a holiday tradition

There’s a guy who hides and watches me every day. Surprisingly, I have no desire to pursue a restraining order. That's because he's my Elf on the Shelf.

If you haven't heard of the tradition, you're not alone. A couple of weeks ago, I was just like you.

Then, updates about the little elf entered my Facebook news feed. People asked where to buy an Elf on the Shelf. Photos showed the elves being nothing short of rascally -- hiding in curious places and performing holiday tricks.

I realized my otherwise wonderful childhood lacked what's apparently a widespread holiday tradition. Now, all I want for Christmas is therapy.

But I'll settle for the cheaper alternative: an attempt to catch up on what I've missed. So at 30 years old -- not to mention unmarried and childless -- I bought an Elf on the Shelf last weekend.

The tradition spans both the elf and a children's book, "The Elf on the Shelf." After being adopted by loving families, the elves become Santa's eyes and ears. A family's elf hides in different places and observes daily events.

Much of the fun involves searching for the tricky elves. They fly to the North Pole every night and "love to play hide-and-seek with their families," according to the official Elf on the Shelf website.

Back to my obsession: The purchase alone was an adventure. Elf adoption costs aren't exactly recession-friendly. I wanted to buy just a plush elf rather than the book and elf set (which generally retails for about $30).

The mission spanned three stores, two days and one experience of being put on hold for nearly 20 minutes. Ultimately, I found an official Elf on the Shelf plush toy at Barnes & Noble. It cost about $13.

The good news? I saved money. The bad news? Technically, I'm deviating from the official tradition. The official Elf on the Shelf website calls the plush elf "a toy version of the REAL North Pole Scout Elf counterparts." Oops.

Then again, I went 30 years without an Elf on the Shelf in my life. Maintaining the tradition's intricacies clearly isn't a huge priority.

Anyway, I left my elf at my boyfriend's house, and he often disappears when I'm out running errands. On our first day of hide-and-seek, I found the elf above the refrigerator, holding a box of matches near a bottle of lighter fluid. Perhaps I got a bad seed.

Follow me on Instagram to see photos from my elf's adventures. I think social media has been huge in driving the tradition's popularity this year. Need proof? Search Pinterest for "Elf on the Shelf ideas."

So maybe I won't need therapy after all. Even though I don't have childhood memories of Elf on the Shelf, I might have the next best thing: a future filled with new traditions for the family my boyfriend and I have become.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at or 706-571-8516. Visit to read her columns.