In homes throughout Sudbury and around the world, an army of elves have taken up residence.
They're keeping watch over children during the lead-up to Christmas, and flying back to the North Pole at night to report to Santa Claus on their behaviour.
Sometimes, though, the elves cause a bit of mischief themselves, doing things such as making snow angels in flour on the kitchen table.
Each morning they're in a new area of the house. When they find the elf, children have to be cautious not to touch them, as that causes the elf to lose its magic.
The elves started popping up everywhere after the publication of the 2005 children's book “Elf on the Shelf,” which is accompanied by a small elf doll.
Inspired by their own family tradition of an elf sent from Santa who came to watch over them at Christmas time, Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell co-authored the book.
Elf on the Shelf has gone on to win numerous awards, including Best Toy Award by Learning Express, Book of the Year Award from Creative Child Awards, and National Best Books Award.
Taryn Gorrie, manager of Scholar's Choice in Sudbury, said Elf on the Shelf has been especially popular for the past three years.
She said she sells at least a dozen elf-related products each day — there's now plush and musical versions of the dolls, as well as a board game and DVD — and is having a hard time keeping them in stock.
Gorrie said her three-year-old son, Mac, has an elf named Candy. For him, the elf is mostly a game of hide-and-seek, she said, as he enjoys searching for him each morning.
She said the dolls capture the “magic of Christmas” for children. “It brings some of that belief in Christmas spirit back into the home,” Gorrie said.
Jessica Cloutier, who also works at Scholar's Choice, said she puts her three-year-old daughter Ava's elf — named Elfie — in places such as near her toothbrush.
“I think it's a good tool to help her to behave,” Clouthier said. “She'll brush her teeth in front of Elfie just so Elfie can tell Santa she's been good.”
Kylie Rautiainen, 6, and her 21-month-old sister, Ashlyn, have elves named Kirby and Andy. Their mom, Angie Rautiainen, said she's been using the elves for the past three years.
She's constructed rather elaborate scenarios for the elves at time, and they've done things such as make marshmallow snowmen and go fishing in the sink with a rope tied to a pencil.
While Ashlyn is still too young to grasp the toys' concept, Kylie was so excited about their first appearance late last month that she couldn't sleep.
“She woke up at midnight, and then around 2 a.m., and then I finally let her go and search for the elf,” Rautiainen said. “Then, we were all able to get some sleep.”
While children aren't normally allowed to touch the elves, Kylie wanted to sleep with hers, so Santa Claus wrote a special letter of permission that said he wouldn't lose his special powers if she touched the toy.
Rautianen said her kids have enjoyed Elf on the Shelf so much that she introduced one at her workplace as well, and her co-workers have had fun taking turns moving the doll to a new location each day.
Isabel McMullan's eight-year-old son, Elliot, has an elf he's named Cane (short for Candy Cane). She shares a story about a time last year when Cane accidentally got knocked to the ground, and Elliot thought he'd lost his magic.
“What we did was we got some kitchen tongs and we picked him up and so his magic didn't disappear,” she laughs.
McMullan said sometimes she and her husband will forget to move the elf, and have to dash downstairs to quickly make the switch, as Elliot looks for Cane as soon as he gets up in the morning.
Overall, Elf on the Shelf has been great, she said, as it's allowed Elliot to just “be a kid,” McMullan said.
Watch the video to see what kind of antics the Northern Life elf, "Scoop", has gotten into.