A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gena Bigler: Elf on the Shelf should focus
on generosity, not on who’s naughty or nice

After weeks of repetitive requests from my six year old, I succumbed to the pressure and bought the very creepy Elf on the Shelf.

If you have been lucky enough to not know about the Elf on the Shelf, they are little elf dolls packaged with a book. The story explains that the elf watches over the children and magically flies home to give Santa a report every night.


My reasons for avoiding the elf this long are simple. The concept of blackmailing my child into good behavior is not appealing. Using the threat of Santa not bringing toys is opposed to everything I believe and everything I have taught her about Santa, giving and Christmas.


The Elves on the Shelves in the author's house, as drawn by her daughter, are named Sparkle and

The elves on the shelves in Gina Bigler’s home, as drawn by her daughter, are named Sparkle and Sghetti.

Also, it is creepy. I grew up during the cold war. The book 1984 was a horror story. Presenting a toy that conditions my child to enjoy being spied on is horrifying.


Despite all of this, I succumbed to my child’s pleading eyes and her heartbroken question, “Why hasn’t my elf come?” I bought two of the elves; two elves for two children. Even though my son has not mentioned it, if big sis gets one, he must have one of his own. So a late night trip to the store and $60 later I have the elves. Now I have to find cute and non-creepy things for them to do every night.


Opening the box, I discover that the creepy little dolls are seriously overpriced. Their floppy little felt bodies are not bendable, further complicating my task of posing them in cute and mischievous acts while my children sleep. Even worse, their hand paws are sown together making it even more difficult to find tasks for them.


All those cute pictures on Pinterest of the creepy elves being adorable are the result of over achieving parents who ‘hacked’ the elves to add bendable wire to the limbs and Velcro to the little mitten hand paws. Like the Six Million Dollar man, they must be rebuilt, better…stronger…faster. Well, not faster but definitely better. With a little luck, I might have a functional elf by next Christmas. For now, Sparkle and Sghetti will have to make do with their subpar floppy felt limbs.


As for the elves, I plan to focus on the fun of finding them and downplay the back story that they are tiny magical informants. The Santa I believe in is a generous force. Gifts from Santa should not depend on whether or not a child eats their peas to receive a gift.


The Santa I believe in represents the giving human nature, the good that people are capable of even in dark times. The generosity of human nature does not keep a score card of good and bad acts; it is not based on the opinions and observations of tiny informants. The generosity of humanity should not be conditional. There are many programs that collect toys for underprivileged children and provide holiday meals for families in need. Donors do not require proof of good behavior from those in need before giving, they just give. They are not buying good behavior or obedience to rules. They are sharing the joy of the holiday season.


Sparkle and Sghetti will focus on fun. There will be no negative or positive reports to Santa. My children will help choose gifts for children we do not know and they will practice sharing the joy of the season without judgment.


And I will do my very best to make the creepy elves cute and fun.

Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of McNay Settlement Group and serves on the board of the Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (L.I.N.K.). Gena would be happy to hear from you at lgbigler@gmail.com.


Click here to read more columns from Gena Bigler.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment