He's arrived just in time for Hanukkah, so don't forget to leave him out some gelt!
I'll admit it—As someone who celebrates Hanukkah, I've always been a little jealous of the whole Elf on a Shelf thing. And apparently I'm not the only one jonesing for their own personal Santa ambassador. Because after one Jewish high school teacher's son started asking questions about whether or not the big guy was going to be shimmying down the chimney, his dad wrote the book Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf in an attempt to explain to all Jewish kids why Kris Kringle won't be coming to visit.
The book is set in the North Pole, natch, where we meet Shmelf, a new elf who has just realized that there are kids on the "nice" list who won't be getting gifts from Santa. Why? Because they're Jewish. So Shmelf pays them a visit, learns all about the festival of lights, and reports back to Santa—who in turn appoints him a Jewish elf. Which basically means he now gets to wear blue and white and ride on a special sleigh led by a Jewish reindeer named Asher.
"'Hanukkah is a time for family and song. For joy and tradition—it's where you belong!" Santa tells Shmelf. "I've decided: at Hanukkah you'll travel the world. Bringing magic and joy to each boy and each girl."
Pretty cute! Creator Greg Wolfe—who's a high school history teacher for at-risk youth—told Today that he was inspired to create Shmelf not only as a way to placate his own 7-year-old but because there are a lot of Jewish kids in this world who don't get visited by Santa every year like their Christian friends do.
"I realized something very important about all children and Santa," he explained. "It doesn't matter whether or not you celebrate Christmas. When you're a kid, especially in America, Santa Claus EXISTS. He's on TV, he's at the mall—he's even at Disneyland!"
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Enter Shmelf. "He is an elf who makes Jewish kids realize they can still have the idea of Santa Claus while still loving and appreciating their own culture and traditions," Wolfe explained.
And he has impeccable timing, given the fact that the first night of Hanukkah coincides with Christmas Eve for the first time since 1959.
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Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.