Last week ABC’s Good Morning America did a segment about the Christmas toy the “Elf on the Shelf.” The elf is adopted by a child and given a name. He then spies for Santa Claus and at night “travels” to the North Pole to tell Santa if the child has been “naughty or nice.” The elf returns to a different spot in the house, and the children search for him.
The GMA host, Lara Spencer inadvertently explained during the segment that parents really move the elf in the middle of the night, and she was shown on camera handling the doll. She was attacked by angry viewers and the toy’s manufacturer who accused her of nearly killing Christmas some calling her “The Grinch who stole Christmas” for ruining the fairy tale for young viewers.
Some of that anger wasn’t about kids as much as that her comments could dampen sales for the toy company. Nothing riles a company up like hitting their profits.
Lara Spencer is a mother herself and likely did not intend to ruin Christmas. Things like this happen when a tradition involves keeping a secret from children. One of the hardest moments I had as a father was trying to explain to my children that there really was a Santa Claus after they had been told otherwise at school.
There is a new children’s book out this year based on the author’s family traditions when she was growing up. The book is “The Donkey in the Living Room” by Sarah Cunningham. The good thing about this book, at least for parents and grandparents, is that there are no secrets to keep, and there are no spies tattling to Santa. The best thing is it involves children in the real story of Christmas.
Ms Cunningham is a faith and spirituality author, a teacher, and the daughter of a Minister. She based her book on the traditions her family observed when she was growing up. She says her book takes the emphasis off of kids behaving well to “accumulate toys” and focuses on the more meaningful origins of Christmas.
Her family had a tradition somewhat like the Advent Calendar common in many Catholic and Lutheran families where children open a door on the calendar each day of Advent and reads a Biblical passage foretelling the coming of Jesus. The idea is to teach children that Jesus is the real Christmas gift.
The author of the “Donkey in the Living Room” told PRNewswire the book is based on a family tradition where she and her brothers would unwrap the figurines from the family manger scene one day at a time. Each day, their father would tell the Christmas story from the newly unwrapped character’s point of view.
“So as children, we grew up hearing the Christmas story from a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-gender cast. We heard Mary talk about the donkey ride while pregnant and cows talk about the upheaval the night the stable turned into a maternity ward,” she said.
“The beautiful thing about it was, after reading each character’s slice of the story one day at a time, we couldn’t wait for baby Jesus. He was the culmination of it all and we were so, so excited when we finally got to unwrap him.” Cunningham said adding she “yearned for a book where the go-to tradition would remind my kids to think past toy accumulation and spend a few minutes centering themselves on the birth of Jesus.”
The beauty of this book, at least for Christians, is that it gets children focused on the real meaning of Christmas not the commercialism that has turned the “holy” day into a holiday.
I do not want to knock the “Elf in the Shelf” because if it were around when my children were growing up, they would have had one. However, Christmas has lost most of its meaning because it has now all about material things and money. A book that children can relate to might do a lot to keep Christmas alive.
If you want more information on the author go to her website. The book is available on Amazon.
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