When Does Elf On The Shelf Leave? You've Been So Very Patient

You know there are official Elf protocols to follow.

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You’ve either happily embraced or begrudgingly accepted the Elf on the Shelf Christmas tradition. Either way, as Santa’s inevitable arrival draws near, you’ll need to know how to usher your elf from your home properly to avoid some uncomfortable questions from your children. You’ve done the whole arrival moment, you’ve arranged countless poses and little scenes of mischief and now you really just need to know: When does Elf on the Shelf leave already? How does it make its formal exit, what the heck are you supposed to tell the kids, and where are you supposed to hide the elf until next year? How do we say goodbye to Elf on the Shelf and send it on its merry way back to the North Pole to help Santa get ready for next year?

When is the Elf on the Shelf supposed to leave?

As the official Elf on the Shelf story goes, “The magical Scout Elves help Santa manage his naughty and nice lists by taking note of a family’s Christmas adventures, and reporting back to Santa at the North Pole nightly.” Come Christmas Eve, your child’s place on the naughty or nice list is confirmed, the presents are under the tree, and the Elf’s job is done. That's why your Elf flies back to the North Pole on the evening of December 24, where they'll stay until Christmas season next year. TL;DR? The Elf on the Shelf leaves on Christmas Eve. Time to clear out, and make room for the big guy in the red suit to make his visit.

There are a few different ways to say goodbye to your family's Elf. There are tons of different printable farewell letters available for free online. I personally love the special touch of lifting the powers over the Elf for a few moments only, so your child has a chance to hug and kiss the Elf goodbye. Your Elf can appear with the letter on the morning of December 24, and make the journey back to the North Pole later that evening after the kids have gone to sleep. This gives everyone a full day to say goodbye.

What to do if your child is sad when the elf goes back to the North Pole

While as a parent you may be a little relieved to see your Elf go, don't be too surprised if your kids are anything but. After all, hunting for the Elf has been the highlight of their morning for nearly a month, and now it's back to Elf-less reality. If your children are sad to see your North Pole visitor go, explaining why they're leaving can be helpful. To help you out with this, the official Elf on the Shelf website offers a complete list that you can read to your kids, detailing why it's so important their Elves get back to Santa quickly. Explain that the Elf is leaving because they have important work back at the Pole, like:

  • Santa letters to answer
  • North Pole projects to help with
  • Training to complete
  • Reindeer to take care of
  • Friends to visit

If your little one is still bummed to see their Elf go, try suggesting they write their Elf updates throughout the year. That way, the Elves can report back to Santa about all that good behavior, and your kid feels like they’ve made a connection. No matter how you decide to handle your Elf’s departure, be sure to remind your kid that they'll be back next year.

How to keep your elf hidden until next year

Now comes one of the most important aspects of the Elf on the Shelf: Finding a good place to keep them until next December. It's really not going to look great if your son stumbles upon their beloved Elf stuffed in a shoebox under your bed sometime next June. Pick a spot you're certain they'll never look, or ideally, a spot they physically can't reach or see. At the top of a closet, on a high shelf, in a locked drawer… hide that Elf like it’s a bag of candy you want all to yourself. Pro-tip: Write down (or send an email to yourself) where you put your Elf. After a whole year, memory can fail us.

There's a lot to celebrate on Christmas Eve. Enjoy that relaxed feeling you can only get once the presents are purchased and wrapped, the stockings are stuffed, the kids are asleep, and your Elf on the Shelf is tucked away until next year. That is, enjoy it until your 5 a.m. Christmas morning wake-up call.

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