Why Black Parents Don't Do Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf was never marketed to "us," but lack of inclusiveness aside—the whole premise of the elf is creepy.

Elf on Christmas Tree
Photo:

blue sky in my pocket/Getty Images

My halls have been decked since immediately after Halloween, and I'm in constant Santa-reminder mode with my kids. It's the most magical time of the year, and this year is the first year in forever that I feel prepared for Christmas. Finally, I won't have to scramble last minute to get everything on my kids' wishlists. But no matter how prepared I am for the holiday season, I am never prepared for right after Thanksgiving. You know, when Santa's helpers start making their way back from the North Pole. I have no qualms about admitting that while I love the holiday season, I cannot stand Elf on the Shelf.

Elf on the Shelf was created back in 2005—the good old days. The days when people could do things in their homes and the entire world didn't get a play-by-play that would make them feel inferior, but I digress. It took over a dozen years for the fair-skinned (read: white) blue-eyed elf to get a girl companion, and when she came along, her only noticeable differences were rosier cheeks, some lipstick, and earrings. All of which can be worn by boys too, by the way. Elf on the Shelf didn't seem like it was marketed with Black people in mind.

Why Black Parents Skip Elf on the Shelf

It was just four years ago that Elf on the Shelf came out with a male and female "dark tone" doll and if that's what they came up with for dark then I can only imagine what my skin tone would be considered in a company lineup. I honestly have no idea if the company is just that uneducated or they just don't care to be inclusive at this point. Either way, I don't care to give them my money.

Lack of inclusiveness aside, I'll be the one to say it out loud: The whole premise of the elf is creepy! I am in no way pediophobic (yes, fear of dolls is an actual thing) but dolls are creepy enough without the whole child surveillance aspect. From Chucky, to Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone and even Annabelle, Hollywood has given us plenty of reasons to remember that dolls coming to life are scary.

Why would I then in turn want my child to believe that a doll is "watching them" in our home and leaving every night to report back to Santa, returning to a new location the next day? That's a horror story in the making, and we already know how well Black people fare in horror movies.

Tanay Howard

Santa is already supposed to be all seeing whether you're sleeping or awake, his creepy little helpers can stay in the North Pole.

— Tanay Howard

And coming from growing up in a Black and Christian household, we're not about to play with dolls and spirits. "It's creepy—having an elf watching my kids to make sure they are being good," says mom of three Maria Davis-Pierre from West Palm Beach Florida. "I don't care for the backstory that they cannot touch it or [that we have to] move it daily. We much prefer reindeer in here with a better backstory; and my kids can touch the reindeer."

Santa is already supposed to be all seeing whether you're sleeping or awake, his creepy little helpers can stay in the North Pole. "I know a lot of families just see this as a fun thing, but it's worth thinking about the messages it's giving to children about surveillance by authorities," Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project told the New York Times. "Personally, I consider success as a parent to be teaching my kids to do the right thing even when nobody is watching, whether they be from the North Pole or anywhere else."

But I think the general consensus from most of the Black parents I know is simple: Ain't nobody got time for that! Between inflation, recovering from pandemic trauma, and a struggling job market, the elf is an unwelcome addition to the already taxing mental load of the holiday season.

Parents Don't Need More On Their Plates

Carolyn Daley says she doesn't get the point of the tradition. "It doesn't seem to have any deeper meaning or connection to the true spirit of Christmas. We already have Santa Claus." As a Black mom who works full time, Daley doesn't want to add more to her plate or compete with other parents about whose elf gets into the best antics. "I don't have time for that. I would rather focus my energy on other memory-making activities," she says.

While Elf on the Shelf started as just a Christmas story, Pinterest and social media have made it almost impossible to enjoy the story and just move the elf to different locations in your home. If "1300 Elf on the Shelf Ideas" overwhelms you (like it should anyone) then the elf thing just isn't for you. But salute to all the parents who hit the Pinterest aesthetic.

As with anything in parenting, make the choices that work best for your family. As for me and my house, we shall remain elf free! 

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