Want to start a new tradition with your family this year? Or bring new life to an old one? That's the idea behind "The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition," a book written by the mother-daughter team of Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell, and illustrated by award-winning illustrator Coë Steinwart.

According to Aebersold, the tradition began when she and her brother asked their mother the all-too-familiar question, "How does Santa really know if we are being naughty or nice?'" The answer came in the form of a small pixie elf that their mother explained acted as Santa's eyes and ears while he was at their house. Each night the elf reported on the day's events to St. Nick himself and each morning he returned to sit and watch from a new spot in their home. Aebersold and her brother would race each other out of bed each morning to see where the elf had landed after his long journey from the North Pole.

It's a cute story and an even cuter tradition to start with your family this year. My husband and his family had an elf growing up, although he wasn't really a Santa "spy," just a friend who visited for the holidays. There are no hard and fast rules to this tradition; you can do whatever you like to make it work for your family, but I bet if that elf starts showing up at your house year after year around the holidays, he will be remembered and cherished by your kids.

You can pick up "The Elf on a Shelf" book set (the kit and kaboodle includes book and "adoptable" elf) from any major bookseller, or you can google "elf crafts" to make your own Christmas elf out of felt, paper, a clay pot, or even an old light bulb.  

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