The Nose: An Elf On The Shelf Is Watching You

Each and every Christmas.

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Rand Richards Cooper
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Theresa Cramer
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Irene Papoulis
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The Nose: An Elf On The Shelf Is Watching You
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The Nose: An Elf On The Shelf Is Watching You

One of our themes today is the iron fist in the velvet glove. Or maybe, sometimes, it's the other way around.

We're all fascinated by the Elf on the Shelf craze. For those of you who don't know, this is a Christmas elf figurine with accompanying audio-visual materials. The idea is that the elf moves around your house in the days preceding Christmas, popping up here and there. Part of the fun for the kids is finding the elf each day, but the subtext is that the elf is Santa's eyes and ears on this particular Christmas crime scene. So you better watch out. 
We're also talking about a short Atlantic piece detailing the vogue for ending emails and texts with XOXO. News anchor Diane Sawyer does it so consistently with her staff that emails failing to end with simulated hugs and kisses are read with mounting alarm.
Iron fist in velvet glove. Whether it's elf or XO, somebody's trying to make you cooperate.
You can join the conversation. E-mail or Tweet us @wnprcolin.



E-mail from Mary

Hi Colin: The Christmas custom in Ecuador is similar to the Elf, but with a religious twist. The family's nativity scene is more expansive than in the US, importantly including the countryside leading into Bethlehem. The landscape must include a winding road leading up to the manger. The most common place for all this in the home is a empty fireplace, with the manger against the back wall while the countryside spills out onto the hearth. (Luckily it is the warm time of the year and there is no need to use the fireplace.)

At ten days before Christmas each child writes a letter to the Baby Jesus promising love and good behavior, then specifying what gifts are desired. The letter is folded very small so that it can be attached to a small toy horse with a rubber band. With each child's horse starting at the beginning the road, parents tell the kids that they'd better behave, because otherwise their horse will not make sufficient progress up to the manger. The Baby Jesus needs to read their letter so he knows what gifts to bring them. The parents advance the horses down the road each night after bedtime depending on the child's behavior. The kids try to get their horse up to the manger by 12/24. Talk about a moral reckoning.

E-mail from Penny

The little elf dolls that people had or made and put on their shelves and told the story of the elves watching has been around for many, many years – at least 50 in my house. But the marketing only started recently.