How Elf on the Shelf Made Millions For Mom and Daughter
[Image via Amazon]
This week here at Yahoo! DIY we are taking a moment to celebrate creative mom and entrepreneur Carol Aebersold, Carol managed to take a family tradition near and dear to her heart, and share it with families across the country and beyond.
As the song goes, Santa is making a list and checking it twice. He is going to find out who is naughty or nice. The Elf on the Shelf is his personal spy. To see you when you’re sleeping and know when you’re awake, Mr. Claus needs an extra set of eyes and ears. Who better than a diminutive creature from Germanic folklore that is characterized by mischief?
The Elf on a Shelf is Aebersold’s brainchild, and since its conception, she has ridden what Fortune Magazine dubbed a sleigh ride to success. In 2005, Aebersold wrote a book in verse based it on her family’s tradition of an elf that reports children’s behavior to Santa every night then flies back to the home each morning.
Ms. Aebersold authored the poem-story with her daughter, Chanda Bell. The last page contains a certificate for a family to fill out and note when the tradition started in their particular household and what the family named their elf. The book sells with an elf figurine. Ms. Aebersold’s other daughter, Chanda’s twin sister Christa Pitts, helped them launch a publishing company. The trio trademarked the idea and self-published 5,000 $30 box sets.
Sales snowballed when a paparazzi photo surfaced of Jennifer Garner carrying the item in 2007. This year, like last year, The Elf on the Shelf had its own float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Herald Square.
[Image via Wavy]
"We were very surprised when it caught on so much because it was our little thing," Aebersol says, “But not so surprised in some ways because it’s something a family can do together.”
The Elf on the Shelf can be a wonderful way to model good behavior for children. There’s the elf demonstrating good hygiene, or the elf who dutifully practices his drums.
[Image via She Knows]
[Image via Instagram: LizBrownLee]
The Elf on the Shelf also provides a lighthearted way to punk the children. There’s the elf hiding in one little girl’s vintage bubblegum machine and the elf sunbathing the middle of December.
[Image via Instagram: JennysCookies]
[Image via A Small Snippet.com]
"I have to admit that I resent having to come up with a new place every night to put the darn elf," says Kathleen Hogan, mother of four.
Luckily, there are many resources with terrific ideas for positioning The Elf on the Shelf, like the ones found here, and here. The elf can make snow angels (with a little help from flour and sugar). He can even cook pancakes. There are also elves who help out with Christmas traditions or simply reflect the feeling of the holiday season.
[Image via Indulgy]
[Image via Home Stories A to Z]
[Image via Come Together Kids]
Some parents find the elf to be creepy. “The Elf of the Shelf kind of freaks me out,” says Warren Ritter, a shopper in the Livingston Mall in New Jersey, where he and his wife Betsy purchased the item this Thanksgiving Weekend. ”There is something macabre about being watched and threatened with consequences, but Betsy thinks that a little bit of fear might actually make the kids behave,” he laughs.
His remarks echo those of Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak, who wrote a story about The Elf on the Shelf in which she noted, ”It’s a Faustian deal. First, you get this amazing disciplinary tool. My little heathens instantly turned into angels the moment I said, ‘The Elf is watching.’ Not like the abstract ‘Santa is watching.’ This was a real, actual thing, staring down at them with dead eyes, perched on the curtain rod, then the bookshelf, then swinging from the chandelier.”
[Image via Home Stories A to Z]
There are pros and cons to welcoming this spritely imp into your home. Yet, most families are clearly besotted with the playful menace, The Elf on the Shelf. In fact, there’s even an offshoot for Jewish families to use at Hanukkah. It is called Mensch on a Bench.
Traditions lend themselves to and create the intricate fibers of our families’ histories. They are creative and unique and what keep us moving forward, while still linking us to the past. Aebersold says, "It was a tradition we had in my family; you adopt your elf for a lifetime. So when I got married, he came with me and my children grew up with my elf. When they grew up they told me what a wonderful family tradition that was and said ‘Mom, we should write a book and share it with the world." That is exactly what she did, and it’s what makes Carol Aebersold Yahoo! DIY’s person of the week!
We are curious to hear about your family traditions and encourage you to share them with us and those around you!