Description (What is being performed):
The informant and his wife will hide an elf doll or statue somewhere in their house for their child to find. Once found, the parents relocate it. This game goes on for the entire month leading up to Christmas Day. Within the informants family and amongst their family friends, the elf is named Schnickles. He/she is considered to be one of Santa’s informants who comes by the house each day to listen to the child’s wishes and also to see if the child has been naughty or nice. Schnickles then reports back to Santa each night then relocates somewhere in the house the next morning. With each new placement, the informant and his wife position the elf different poses and often gives him something to do. They will then share photos of the elf with other family friends who too have taken photos of their elves.
The Informant (Background info about performance from informant):
This game that is described is often known as Elf on the Shelf, which is a large scale phenomenon that started out in 2004. A woman and her daughters wrote a children’s book around the elf statue and assigned a game to it that they used to play which is nearly identical to the game described above. At first the concept was shared with people in a grass roots manor before becoming a commodified object. The informant first heard about the idea through a colleague at work at the start of the grass roots publicity and decided to adopt it with his own doll, which his son named Schnickles. Throughout the the first few years the informant spread the concept to his friends before the official concept reached them. The creative positioning of the elf took shape about a year in, which is something people who used the official game also did.
The informant shared many of his pains about the process of having to replace Schnickles each night. He and his wife took turns but would often get in fights about whose turn it was, especially when it wasn’t until the middle of the night that they’d remember to switch it. It wasn’t until they over heard their son talking to it as though it was his friend that they saw how much it meant to him, thus it became important for them. Also the factor that the elf would report the sons behavior meant that for the straight 30 days the child would behave extra well. This was emphasized greatly by the informant as being a god send during a very hectic time of year. He only wished the elf could be around all the time. He’s considered using the birthday addition that the makers of Elf on the Shelf created, but doesn’t like knowingly giving into the commercial nature of it.
About the Informant
The informant is a freelance construction worker who grew up in both American and Australia. While in Australia he played in a punk rock band for 6 years. He also became a father 12 years ago. Since then he’s been constantly leaning about the pervading sub cultures and rituals for children that were non existent or drastically different from his formative years.
The Analysis (My Thoughts):
The nature of this game is not cut and dry in terms of its classification as lore. The roots of this tradition came from a single family who then spread their tradition as first a non commodified entity to then a huge corporate child’s toy. As for the informant and his family and family friends traditions, they all stemmed from vaguely hearing about the Elf on the Shelf during its roots years and making it their own their renaming it and adding in the poses aspect. Although as they carried on this tradition, the original continued to grow into official culture. Does this then render the informants tradition as fake lore? I’d venture to say no simply because they not only altered the contents but when the openly borrow elf on the shelf it wasn’t official culture.