Christmas is speeding on its’ way, bringing with it a variety of tasks and traditions that can either bring the joy or put a damper on holiday enthusiasm. One such tradition that has been making a mark on millions of families the past few years comes in the form of a tiny, stealthy spy sent from Santa himself to keep kiddos in line. The ubiquitous Elf on the Shelf comes with a strict set of rules, moves about your house while you sleep, can’t be touched by “humans” and is ready to tattle to Santa about your smallest slip-up.
Santa's favorite little helper may have shown up at your house Friday, but if you are looking for another fun way to celebrate than bringing out that pesky elf, here are eight other alternatives.
The Christmas Angel
The Christmas Angel is a more faith-based approach to an Elf on the Shelf-style Christmas activity. Rather than just emphasizing appropriate behavior so the Elf won’t tattle to Santa, the Christmas Angel is a great way to get your family’s focus on serving and loving others.
The Christmas Angel comes complete with a story, much like the Elf on the Shelf, and should be moved each night to a different location. Rather than wreaking mayhem, though, the angel can share with children scriptures, thoughts and service-based activities that will promote the true spirit of Christmas. For more information on the Christmas Angel, to buy one, or to get a list of day-by-day Angel ideas and activities, visit the product website here.
The Mensch on a Bench
Christmas isn’t the only holiday that makes an appearance each December. For those who love the spirit of the season but don’t necessarily celebrate with the jolly St. Nick, check out this soon to be Hannukah classic - The Mensch on a Bench!
According to his story, Moshe the Mensch was present in the temple at the time Judah and the Maccabees defeated the Greeks, and found himself watching over the Menorah as everyone slept. Now Moshe, the Mensch on a Bench is available to watch over each family’s Menorah, and is quickly becoming a Hanukkah tradition.
The Maccabee On the Mantel
Continuing with Elf on the Shelf-like traditions for Hanukkah, you’ll definitely want to see the Maccabee on the Mantel. Your cute plush Maccabee will come complete with a story and fun ideas for incorporating him into your Hanukkah celebrations.
Far from the untouchable Elf on the Shelf, the Maccabee on the Mantel is meant for fun and play, and the website encourages families to invite him into the kitchen, play Dreidel with him and make him an exciting holiday addition. For more information on the Maccabee, or to buy this “Kid tested, Rabbi approved” product, get one on Amazon here.
If you’re looking for something a little closer to that ubiquitous Elf, look no further than the original elf, Christopher Pop-In-Kins. Also known as “Elf Fun with Pop-In-Kins,” Christopher Pop-In-Kins and his sister, Christina Marie, choose families each year to “pop in” on, and have been for 28 years!
Much like the Elf on the Shelf that’s currently trending, these mischievous siblings also play hide-and-seek and report to Santa at the North Pole, but only to tell him about their adventures and new friends.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Pop-In-Kins or want to check out some of their cool color pages and activities, visit their website here.
Do-It-Yourself Christmas friends
As fun as the Elf on the Shelf and his alternates might be, the cost of supplying that fun through toys and books can really add up. We’ve got the premise - a fun holiday season game with meaning, but maybe you don’t want to spend the funds. One great place to look is here, where you’ll find the Kindness Elves, and how they came to be.
The Kindness Elves were created by a mom hoping to place the focus of the holiday season on positive activities for her kids, rather than just encouraging them to earn their gifts through good behavior. Their main function is to help children learn to help and serve, as well as see the kind things others do for them. Rather than buying a specific elf or book, Kindness Elves can be homemade or purchased inexpensively (any elf will do!). They can then be used each day to give ideas on how to be kind and best serve others. For more information on the Kindness Elves or to learn more about how they work, visit their Facebook page here.
Any kind of little creature can work to serve that same function, including a Christmas Mouse, as discussed with fun activities here.
Dwarf in the Drawer
As the Dwarf in the Drawer once said, “In a box he’d arrived, with a smile quite contrived. Oh, I knew in a snap - there was mayhem on tap.”
In this fun and funny alternative story, the Dwarf in the Drawer was around long before any silly elves came to play, and he isn’t really pleased with the way things have been looking since that brat of an elf arrived. The Dwarf comes with no special rules, and really just likes to play and hang out all year round.
The Shepherd on the Search
The Shepherd on the Search provides Christ-centered Christmas activities throughout the month of December. Each activity includes a story relating to the nativity story. Activities include paper lanterns, scriptures to memorize, coloring pages and dress like a shepherd day.
You can buy one on Amazon here.
The Little Lamb from Bethlehem
"I have come to your home from a land far away to tell you a true story. It's a story of something that happened in my little town many years ago..."
The Little Lamb from Bethlehem, found this year at Deseret Book, tells the story of Jesus' miraculous birth.
The lamb is meant to make Christmas meaningful as kids can use the plush lamb to learn about Jesus, serve others ad celebrate the true meaning of the season.
You can buy one through Deseret Book here.