an elf on the shelf doll in front of a Christmas tree with candy canes

Here's When You Can Officially Pack Up Elf On The Shelf This Year


No matter how anxious you are, you have to follow proper protocols.

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You’ve either happily embraced or begrudgingly accepted the Elf on the Shelf Christmas tradition this year. 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. So, when does Elf on the Shelf leave in 2020, how does it make its formal exit, what the heck are you supposed to tell the kids, and where are you supposed to hide this thing until next year, because the last thing you need during this tumultuous year is to plant any seed of doubt (no matter how small) about the magic of Christmas.

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.

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, like this one from the Stockpiling Moms blog. 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.

While as a parent you may be 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. After all, they've got letters to answer, North Pole projects to help with, training to complete, reindeer to take care of, and friends to see. They'll be back 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. 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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