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The Mystery and Magic of Elves

My daughter came home last week all abuzz ... about elves.

"Mom!" she said, "when are we getting our elves? Everyone's got them. They're so fun. Why don't we have any?"

"Uh oh," I thought, "another Ohio mystery."

There have been quite a few of these Ohio mysteries since we moved here five months ago, like the scarlet dress code on game days and the rescheduling of Halloween. Consequently, I didn't greet this elf phenomenon with the wildest enthusiasm.

But the requests kept coming, in many forms. There were little post it notes left strewn throughout the house, "Elf, are you here? Please write back." There were tales of elf happenings in friends homes. But what finally spurred me to act was the overheard friend commiseration, "I can't believe you don't have an elf. Don't worry, he's probably just late."

I gathered a group of moms at a holiday party this weekend and they gave me an elf tutorial in hushed whispers with frequent glances to make sure no children were within ear shot. Although the elf tradition varies by household, the basic custom is that an elf doll is purchased. This elf doll has a direct line to Santa and reports on the children's behavior and wishes. He is very active at night, traveling to the North Pole and back, and doing various tricks while the house sleeps. Elves have been known to write "believe" in sugar on the kitchen counter, to tie children's shoes together, to fill bathtubs with water and go sailing on kids toys.

Although I wasn't eager to take on another nightly task knowing how poorly I performed as a tooth fairy, I did like the two major benefits the moms raved about. The elf stretches the magic of Christmas to the full month of December. And the elf, as an adorable spy for Santa, is a powerful discipline mechanism.

The next day, I headed to the Morgan House in Dublin to purchase our elf. I was quite surprised to discover that this quaint little building was actually Christmas headquarters, and it was bustling and packed to capacity. I made my way carefully through rooms and rooms of ornaments and finally found the elf room where I promptly succumbed to elf fever. A full forty-five minutes later, I emerged with not one, but four elves. One "real" elf that the children will not be allowed to touch, lest they remove his magic, and three sturdier stuffed elves that they could play with to their hearts' content.

Even after my elf spree, I still wasn't convinced about this elf business. It wasn't until tonight when I read my children the elf on a shelf story and watched their faces fill with excitement that I let the excitement spread to me as well. My jaded eight year old was just as engaged as her younger siblings, suggesting names (Jolly Jiggler), and solemnly welcoming him to our family before heading up to bed. 

I'm still not fully sold on the scarlet weekend wear and still feel unsettled by our early Trick or Treating, but this elf tradition is one Ohio custom that I'm thrilled to adopt. And now I must sign off to perform Jolly Jiggler's inaugural trick, although it is clear that his first trick already took place earlier tonight, when he cemented the magic of Santa in our house at least for a few more years.

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

When not out shopping for elves, Vanessa Druckman blogs about cooking and parenting at Chefdruck Musings.