Why I’ll Never Have an ‘Elf on the Shelf’ – Pt 2



Eventually, my children will outgrow the surprise of Christmas morning, and know it was mom and dad all along, but the mystery will still remain, God willing, as long as I do my part to instill the mysteries of Christ and the Church within them. When they discover the secret of Christmas morning presents, I hope they have the same reaction that G. K. Chesterton had as he explains in his short essay “The Other Stocking.”


“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my mind and fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

As a child, I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not even worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.

And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed towards me. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.

I have merely extended the idea.

Then, I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking. Now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once, I only thanked God for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea.

Once, I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside.

It is the large and preposterous present of my self, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of particularly good will.”


And, you see my friends; an Elf doesn’t fit into this scenario. Elves spy on you to make sure you’re being good and report back to Santa? Not necessary, as you already have a guardian angel watching over you, and saints who are praying for you. They’re not trying to catch you in the act, like this elf seems to be doing, but rather are all rooting for you to do the best you can because they want you to join them in heaven – not just to earn holiday loot, then to heck with the rest of the year.

And that’s why I’ll have wandering wise men. Wise men won’t tattle on you to Jesus, since they’re too busy seeking Him themselves. They spent their whole lives searching for the Christ child, and during Advent, when my children see these figurines mysteriously migrating, I want them to remember that, and to try and help them find their way (point them in the right direction? Pray for them? Leave them notes? Draw them maps? The possibilities are endless), and then remember that we are to do the same, and find the Christ child in our own lives.

Now, is this all set in stone? Of course not, my kid is only nine months old, and there’s only one of him so far. I don’t know what sort of questions we will encounter as he and his future siblings grow up, but this is what I aspire to.  So you see, I’m not a complete scrooge about the entirety of the Christmas celebration outside of the Mass. I still love the movie ‘Elf’ and ‘Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer’ and all those goodies (White Christmas is one of my favorites, but it doesn’t factor into the ‘Santa’ mythos!), and I’m glad I have a few years before Finn knows what’s going on enough to ask questions about how St. Nick works with elves at the north pole. We can figure that out when the time comes. In the meantime, join me in tossing those elves out into the street, and get yourselves some wise guys!

… I mean men… Wise Men…


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